Nationals Rumors: Nats Want Left-Handed Reliever, Is J.P. Howell A Target Again?

Elsa

Former Nats' GM Jim Bowden asked current Washington Nationals' General Manager Mike Rizzo on Tuesday what the next step will be in the process of improving the roster before the 2014 season. Rizzo wasn't tipping his hand, but he was clear about the team's needs...

"So it's safe to say that you won't get in on [Robinson] Cano at the last minute?" Jim Bowden chided his former Assistant General Manager and the Washington Nationals' current General Manager Mike Rizzo after Rizzo had stated pretty clearly in an MLB Network Radio interview yesterday that he was happy with the Nats' in-house options at second base.

"I don't foresee that," Rizzo said. "I don't rule anything out, but I don't foresee us jumping into that market. It's not a place that we need to upgrade. We think that we've got really good options at second base and we're happy and we're looking forward to going into Spring Training with them."

When the Nationals' GM spoke to the D.C. press corps early on Tuesday to discuss the deal that brought Doug Fister to Washington from the Detroit Tigers, he told reporters, including NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman, that the team's offseason plans hadn't really changed. The Nationals were in the market for a starter before acquiring Fister and they still have interest in bullpen help and bench additions.

"I think one of the things that we're trying to do is upgrade our bullpen. We'd like to tweak that. Left-handed reliever is a thing that we will certainly be looking into." - Nats' GM Mike Rizzo on MLB Network Radio

A left-handed reliever, in particular, is what Rizzo's been after all along.

"Mike, J.P. Howell next for you?" Bowden asked with humorous directness.

"Well, I think one of the things that we're trying to do is upgrade our bullpen," Rizzo responded. "We'd like to tweak that. Left-handed reliever is a thing that we will certainly be looking into. We're fortunate there is a handful of really good, effective left-handed relievers in the business that are available right now. And either free agent-wise or via trade, we're certainly looking at all aspects to tweak our bullpen from the left side specifically, but the bullpen in general."

The Nationals were rumored to have interest in Javier Lopez and he said there was an offer after he re-signed with the San Francisco Giants. Manny Parra was thought be a target before he signed on to return to Cincinnati. Oliver Perez, who found himself again with the help of Nats' pitching guru Spin Williams, is reportedly another option under consideration.

The Nats were thought to have interest in J.P. Howell before he signed with Los Angeles last winter and now that he's become a free agent again, he makes sense for the Nationals, though like when second base is discussed, Rizzo says there are in-house options with Ross Detwiler a possibility if he doesn't make the rotation and Sammy Solis identified in a WaPost report as one possibility.

Former Nationals' reliever Mike Gonzalez is still out there. Eric O'Flaherty is out there if the Nats don't mind a pitcher recovering from surgery.

The Nationals traded Fernando Abad last week. They traded Ian Krol on Tuesday. Xavier Cedeno is still on the roster. Where will Rizzo turn to fill his bullpen needs? J.P. Howell said last year he had interest in playing for the Nationals. Was Bowden's needling of the Nats' GM a hint that he knew there was interest again this winter?

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