Having already lost relievers Sean Burnett and Tom Gorzelanny to free agency, the Washington Nationals were known to be in the market for some bullpen help this winter, even after they added veteran lefty Bill Bray and re-signed Zach Duke. Until today, 2012 Nats' reliever Mike Gonzalez was considered to be a target for the Nationals, along with left-hander J.P. Howell, but according to reports this afternoon, Gonzalez decided to sign with the Milwaukee Brewers, who also signed Gorzelanny to a 2-year/$6M dollar deal last week. Gonzalez and the Brewers have reportedly agreed upon a 1-year/$2.25M dollar deal according to MLB Network Radio host and former MLB GM Jim Bowden.
Howell, the former Tampa Bay Rays' reliever, and the Nats have expressed mutual interest in one another this winter, but the soon-to-turn-30-year-old lefty remains on the market as of this afternoon.
Though the Nationals have been open about their interest in adding another left-hander to the bullpen, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told reporters, including the Washington Post's James Wagner, that he didn't think another reliever was absolutely necessary. "'We’d like to get a second left-hander," Rizzo said, "It’s not a necessity because our right-handed relievers get out left-handers well, but in a perfect world we’d like to get a second.'" The late inning relievers that the Nationals already have, Tyler Clippard, Ryan Mattheus, Henry Rodriguez and Craig Stammen do have good numbers against left-handed hitters.
Stammen has held lefties to a .266/.310/.407 line over the course of his career, but working exclusively in relief last season, the right-hander had a .198/.274/.331 line against lefties. Henry Rodriguez held left-handed hitters to a .208/.356/.354 line before his 2012 campaign ended. In Ryan Mattheus' two major league seasons in D.C., the righty has held lefties to a .214/.294/.393 line. Last year lefties had a .241/.313/.471 line against the reliever. Opposing hitters have a .186/.268/.325 line against Tyler Clippard in his career, and 2012 was more of the same with the veteran closer/set-up man holding lefties to a .170/.260/.259 line.
Still, the Nationals would prefer to add a lefty to their pen. There aren't too many options left, though J.P. Howell's still available.