Nationals Rumors: Nats Interested In Grant Balfour + Bench Bat Chatter

Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

So the Washington Nationals are reportedly interested in free agent closer Grant Balfour and they are also rumored to be willing to deal from their bullpen depth. Can the Nats sign a bullpen arm and trade for whatever else they think it is they need this winter?

After FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote this morning about the Washington Nationals' rumored interest in free agent closer Grant Balfournationals.com writer Bill Ladson reported this afternoon that his sources too said the 36-year-old right-hander is on the Nats' radar. While noting that Washington's 40-Man Roster is currently full, Ladson writes that there would have to be a corresponding move if the Nationals add any player, and as Rosenthal's sources said, "...a baseball source indicated that reliever Drew Storen would likely be available if Balfour signs with the Nationals."

"We're still pounding away on some ideas that we have. They're usually smaller, more intricate moves at this point of the offseason..." - Mike Rizzo on 106.7 the FAN in D.C., January 2014

Storen, 26, agreed to a 1-year/$3.45M deal this week, avoiding arbitration with the Nats. As FOXSports.com's Mr. Rosenthal wrote this morning, however, the Nationals, "...likely prefer Clippard as a setup man and, according to sources, would like to trade Storen, who will earn $3.45 million this season."

Clippard, 28, and the Nationals exchanged figures for arbitration this week, with the right-hander reportedly asking for $6.35M while the Nats were offering $4.45M after a 2013 campaign which saw Clippard put up a 2.41 ERA, a 3.82 FIP, 24 walks (3.04 BB/9) and 73 Ks (9.25 K/9) in 72 appearances and 71 IP over which he was worth +0.4 fWAR. Storen, who moved to a set-up role when the Nationals signed Rafael Soriano last winter, struggled for most of the 2013 season before finishing strong. The '09 1st Round pick put up a 4.52 ERA, a 3.62 FIP, 19 walks (2.77 BB/9) and 58 Ks (8.46 K/9) in 68 games and 61 2/3 IP over which he was worth +0.2 fWAR.

Soriano, 34, saved 43 games in the first year of the 2-year/$28M deal he signed last winter, putting up a 3.11 ERA with a 3.65 FIP, 17 walks (2.30 BB/9) and 51 Ks (6.89 K/9) in 68 appearances and 66 2/3 IP and finishing at +0.5 fWAR a year after a +1.2 fWAR campaign in New York in 2013.

Balfour finished the 2013 season in Oakland with a 2.59 ERA, 3.49 FIP, 27 walks (3.88 BB/9) and 72 Ks (10.34 K/9) in 65 games and 62 2/3 IP for the A's over which he was worth +0.6 fWAR.

FOXSports.com's Mr. Rosenthal wrote that in addition to thinking about adding a reliever to the back end of the 'pen, the Nationals, "...have made no secret that they want to add another bat off the bench."

Nationals.com's Bill Ladson's sources quoted in tonight's report said the same, with Ladson adding that the Nationals, "...are still looking for a backup catcher, according to a baseball source," and, "[t]he club will most likely trade for that piece."

Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell reported last month that the Nats, "...hoped to deal for then-Reds backup catcher Ryan Hanigan but would not give up a young pitcher such as Taylor Jordan or Sammy Solis."

Though the Nationals have Wilson Ramos as their no.1 catcher and Chris Snyder, Jhonatan Solano and Sandy Leon as potential backups, there has been chatter about the Nats pursuing a backup catcher who could fill in should Ramos deal with any injuries. Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo has previously stated that he's comfortable with the depth and believes the Nats could trade for a catcher if anything happened to Ramos.

A bench bat? Another left-hander? Can the Nationals sign Balfour and then deal from their right-handed depth for whatever they think is the biggest need? Should they stick with Storen and Clippard setting up for Soriano?

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