More 2014 Nationals' Bullpen Chatter And One Suggested Trade Target

Patrick McDermott

Are the Washington Nationals comfortable with Jerry Blevins and Xavier Cedeno as the left-handers in the 2014 bullpen if they do indeed keep two lefties, or should the Nats still be pursuing another left-handed reliever? One hypothetical target was offered by a former GM...

"We attacked our bullpen shortage, especially from the left side, when we made the trade for [Jerry] Blevins," Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier last week. "And we feel good about that. We feel good about our depth in the starting rotation, in the bullpen and guys that we feel that can fill other positions if need be due to injury."

"'I personally like a lefty specialist, if you will, that can come in and ‑‑ for that two‑out situation and get them out...'" - Matt Williams on his ideal bullpen

Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell wrote recently that the Nats hoped to add another lefty even after the trade for Blevins, who was acquired in early December from the Oakland A's in return for 2013 Nats' Minor League Player of the Year, Billy Burns. "They wanted Blevins," the WaPost reporter wrote. "But they also wanted another quality lefty, too, especially after they got rid of [Fernando] Abad and [Ian] Krol. Will one become available?"

If not, the Nationals' General Manager told reporters, including Washington Post writer James Wagner, that he thought 27-year-old lefty Xavier Cedeno, "...earned the chance to be a left-handed specialist," with his work last season.

The former Houston Astros' reliever, selected off waivers by the Nats last April, pitched regularly out of the bullpen in the majors in September after bouncing up and down between Triple-A Syracuse and D.C. all season. Cedeno posted a 1.93 ERA and a 0.90 FIP, with no walks and five Ks in 4 2/3 IP in which he allowed just one run over the season's final month.

"'Where was he all year when I needed him? Somebody dropped the ball. I’m glad to see him now.'" - Davey Johnson to the Washington Post on Xavier Cedeno in September

With the Chiefs, Cedeno was (2-0) with four saves, 16 BB (4.19 BB/9) and 45 Ks (11.80 K/9) with a 1.31 ERA and a 2.82 FIP in 34 1/3 IP. Right-handed hitters have put up a .356/.427/.552 line over 104 plate appearances vs Cedeno so far in his major league career, but he has a .231/.320/.308 line against lefties, and he held left-handers to a .231/.333/.269 line in limited action this past season.

In 19 games for the Cangrejeros de Santurce in the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente this winter, Cedeno was (0-2) with a 2.49 ERA, seven walks (2.91 BB/9) and 36 Ks (14.95 K/9) in 21 2/3 IP over which he held right-handers to a .127 AVG and lefties to a .190 AVG.

The Nationals have also discussed Ross Detwiler (if he doesn't make the rotation) and Sammy Solis (if they get desperate?) as potential bullpen pieces should their left-handers not do what's expected of them this season.

Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore, in assessing remaining needs a month before Spring Training, noted this week that Oliver Perez, Eric O'Flaherty and Michael Gonzalez, who were identified as targets earlier this winter, remain available.

Rizzo, however, "...seems content with their current makeup," the WaPost reporter wrote, before quoting the GM saying, "'We feel that [Cedeno is] a guy that can get left-handed hitters out. He also has [minor league] options left. He’s going to go to spring training and compete for a spot.'"

"'Certainly Cedeno has earned the opportunity to be that left-on-left guy,'" MASN's Dan Kolko quote Rizzo saying at December's Winter Meetings. "'He was terrific both in the minor leagues last year and in the big leagues in the short stint that he was up there. So he's earned a look and an opportunity.'"

Former Nationals' General Manager Jim Bowden, now a host on MLB Network Radio and an analyst/writer for ESPN, offered his "missing link" for every NL team in an article this week and suggested the Nats deal from their surplus of right-handed relievers for Minnesota Twins' lefty Glen Perkins.

The 30-year-old, eight-year MLB veteran saved 36 games for the Twins in 2013, posting a 2.30 ERA, a 2.49 FIP, 15 walks (2.15 BB/9) and 77 Ks (11.06 K/9) in 62 2/3 IP, holding lefties to a .224/.271/.273 line while dominating right-handed hitters (.183/.251/.317). Would the Twins actually trade Perkins, who signed a 3-year/$10.3M extension in March 2012 which pays him $3.75M this season and in 2015 with a club option at $4.5M for the 2016 season? When his name came up in the past, as it did at last July's trade deadline, the Twins said they weren't thinking about dealing their closer.

If the Nationals feel they need to add another lefty, can Rizzo find the right deal out there this winter? Will last April's waiver wire pickup end up as the second left-hander in the 2014 Nationals' 'pen?

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