Nationals Rumors: Nats Still In Market For Left-Handed Relief Help

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo has talked openly about wanting to add some left-handed help to the Nats' bullpen and as more and more left-handers have signed this winter, the options are dwindling. Can the Nationals find the help from the left side that they are after?

As Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo explained in an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier on Tuesday, after adding 6'8'' right-hander Doug Fister to the rotation and filling one need, there is still work to do on the bench and in the bullpen to build for the 2014 campaign. "We like the composition of the roster and the ballclub," Rizzo said, "but there is always room for improvement. We're not a team that's without holes and we've identified some of those holes and we're looking to get better and improve the roster."

"We're not a team that's without holes and we've identified some of those holes and we're looking to get better and improve the roster." - Mike Rizzo on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.

"'We feel that we’d like to tweak the bullpen a little bit,'" Rizzo said early on Tuesday morning in a conversation with reporters, including NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman, reiterating what he has said since the 2013 season ended about adding to the rotation, bench and 'pen.

As for the bullpen, in particular, Rizzo said, "'I think we’re better-suited going into spring training with our left-handed bullpen than we [were] last year. But it’s something that we’re looking into the free agent market or the trade market and trying to upgrade.'"

Rizzo told MLB Network Radio Inside Pitch hosts Jim Bowden and Casey Stern when asked specifically on Tuesday about 30-year-old free agent lefty J.P. Howell, who was identified as a target for the Nats before signing a 1-year/$2.85M deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers last winter, that he thought there were several "really good, effective left-handers" available this winter 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."

"We're certainly looking at all aspects to tweak our bullpen from the left side specifically, but the bullpen in general." - Mike Rizzo on MLB Network Radio on Tuesday

Howell held left-handed hitters to a .164/.225/.227 line in LA in 2013.

Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore wrote on Twitter on Wednesday night that 32-year-old veteran lefty Oliver Perez, who pitched at Double-A in the Nationals' organization in 2011, was still a target for the team. Perez pitched for the Seattle Mariners in each of the last two seasons, holding left-handers to a .238/.358/.288 line last year.

MLB.com's Bill Ladson identified another target this morning, writing that he, "learned that the team has expressed interest in Scott Downs," the 37-year-old left-hander who pitched for the LA Angels and Atlanta Braves in 2013, holding left-handed hitters to a .259/.333/.296 line.

Boone Logan has been identified as a target earlier this winter. Javier Lopez and Manny Parra were mentioned before each signed on to return to the Giants and Reds, respectively. After trading Fernando Abad to the Oakland A's last week and Ian Krol to the Tigers on Monday night, the Nationals have just 27-year-old lefty reliever Xavier Cedeno available as a bullpen option right now. Ross Detwiler, 27, could potentially pitch out of the pen if he doesn't make the rotation as the Nats' fifth starter and Rizzo has previously stated that 25-year-old, 2010 2nd Round pick Sammy Solis could be an option after returning from Tommy John surgery for an impressive 2013 campaign that ended with a strong stint in the Arizona Fall League.

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