Nationals Rumors: Nats Still In Market For Relief Help? Bench Bat?

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals have crossed most of the big items off their winter checklist, but the Nats are not necessarily done. GM Mike Rizzo said he was always looking for value, and the Nationals have come up in connection to at least one free agent this week.

A package consisting of Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Krol, and the Washington Nationals' top left-handed prospect, Robbie Ray, landed Detroit Tigers' starter Doug Fister. Free agent outfielder Nate McLouth became the fourth outfielder in the nation's capital when he signed a 2-year/$10.75M deal with the Nats, joining Scott Hairston, who was acquired in a trade with Chicago last year, on the Nationals' bench. The Oakland A's, frequent trade partners of the Nationals, provided the left-handed bullpen arm that Washington was after this winter when they agreed to a trade that sent 2013 Nats' Minor League Player of the Year Billy Burns to the Athletics in return for reliever Jerry Blevins.

"We're never finished. There are always some things that are ongoing... if you can improve the team it's our job to improve the team." - Mike Rizzo on ESPN980, January 2014

Veteran infielder Jamey Carroll got a minor league deal and will get an opportunity to compete for the utility role Lombardozzi previously filled. Danny Espinosa is expected to fight for the same job this spring. Mike Fontento signed a minor league deal too. Will Rhymes was brought back for a second season with the organization. Eight of the Nationals' arbitration-eligible players signed with Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann both agreeing to two-year deals which bought out their final years of arbitration eligibility. Only Tyler Clippard and Fister remain unsigned.

Chris Snyder signed on for a second run at the backup job with the Nationals, agreeing to a minor league deal for the second year in a row. He'll compete with Jhonatan Solano and Sandy Leon to see who backs Wilson Ramos up.

Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell wrote recently that Plan A for the Nationals this winter, included signing another left-handed reliever in addition to Blevins and a backup catcher who could play every day if anything went wrong with Ramos. The Nationals, "...couldn’t — or wouldn’t — go for more than a one-year deal," the WaPost reporter wrote, so they missed out on relievers like, "southpaws Javier Lopez, J.P. Howell, Scott Downs and Matt Thornton, as well as catcher Jose Molina." The Nats, "hoped to deal for then-Reds backup catcher Ryan Hanigan," who was eventually dealt to the Tampa Bay Rays, "but would not give up a young pitcher such as Taylor Jordan or Sammy Solis."

When FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote about the sources of his who told him the Nationals have interest in free agent right-hander Grant Balfour, he noted that the Nationals, "...have made no secret that they want to add another bat off the bench." MLB.com's Bill Ladson's sources too confirmed an interest in Balfour on the Nationals' part, while writing that, "...the Nationals are still trying to improve their bench," and, "...are still looking for a backup catcher, according to a baseball source," though he thought the, "...club will most likely trade for that piece." Both writer's sources told them Drew Storen was thought to be available as well.

Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo, in his recent appearance on ESPN980's The Sports Fix with Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro, was clear that he was always looking for ways to improve the roster, even after the Nationals have met most of the goals they set for themselves this winter. "We had some specifics that we set out to do," Rizzo said. "And we feel that we hit on most of the marks that we set out to do. We're never finished. There are always some things that are ongoing. And whatever time frame you put on it. Wherever you're at in the calendar, if you can improve the team it's our job to improve the team."

"We're always looking for value and good deals," Rizzo continued, "and at this time of the year, sometimes you find them and if we were to look for some deals and find them we certainly would be open to making even more moves."

There's still a month to go before Spring Training starts...

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