The Nationals signed two left-handers today, inking 29-year-old Zach Duke to a major league deal and reportedly signing 29-year-old former Nats' reliever Bill Bray to a minor league contract. The big news tonight, however is that D.C. GM Mike Rizzo all-but said that Washington was out of the market for 30-year-old free agent Sean Burnett who posted a 2.81 ERA over 201.2 IP as part of the Nats' bullpen over four seasons following the June '09 deal with Pittsburgh that sent outfielder Lastings Milledge and reliever Joel Hanrahan to the Pirates in exchange for Burnett and outfielder Nyjer Morgan.
Rizzo told reporters, including NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman, that he didn't think Burnet fit into the Nationals' plans in terms of the length or dollar amount the reliever is likely to command on the free agent market this winter. Just this afternoon there are reports from Los Angeles (AL), Milwaukee and St. Louis naming the teams as three of the seven or eight (if they were counting the Nats) that were said to have contacted the reliever who finished what now looks like it will be his last year in the nation's capital with a 2.38 ERA, 2.79 FIP, 12 walks (1.91 BB/9) and 57 Ks (9.05 K/9) in 70 games and 56.2 IP.
Burnett had surgery right after the 2012 season ended to remove bone spurs in his elbow which caused him problems late in the season. In spite of the injury concerns, NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman and others are predicting that the lefty will get a deal similar to the 3-year/$18M dollar contract the Giants signed Jeremy Affeldt to earlier this winter, somewhere in the 3-year/$14-15M range. Burnett made $2.3M in 2012 in the last year of the 2-year/$3.95M dollar extension the left-hander signed in December of 2010 and he turned down the $3.5M dollar option for 2013, opting to become a free agent and hoping to sign the kind of deal he's apparently being offered.
Zach Duke was (15-5) with a 3.51 ERA and a 4.09 FIP at Triple-A Syracuse this season with 39 walks (2.14 BB/9) and 91 Ks (4.98 K/9) in 26 starts and 164.1 IP in his first year with the organization. Duke had a 1.32 ERA, a 2.51 FIP, four walks (2.63 BB/9) and 10 Ks (6.59 K/9) in 13.2 IP in September when he was called up by the Nats and according to the post-signing chatter this afternoon the lefty will do the job Tom Gorzelanny did in the pen throwing in a long-relief role the past few seasons with the free agent Gorzelanny apparently having pitched for Washington for the last time as well.
Bill Bray, a Montreal Expos' 1st Round pick in 2004, battled back injuries and pitched just 14.0 innings for Cincinnati in 2012 in his sixth season in the majors with the Reds following the eight-player July '06 deal that brought Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez to D.C. along with Ryan Wagner in exchange for Bray, Royce Clayton, Brendan Harris, Gary Majewski and Daryl Thompson. Bray had a 5.19 ERA and a 9.33 FIP in the 8.2 innings he did pitch for the Reds this past season but the previous year in 2011, the reliever had a 2.98 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 17 walks (3.17 BB/9) and 44 Ks (8.19 K/9) in 79 games and 48.1 innings of work.
According to the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, the Nationals still want to add a left-hander to the bullpen. After acquiring Denard Span to play center for the Nationals in 2012, the Nats' general manager told reporters there was still other work to be done this winter with Adam LaRoche unsigned but interested in returning, Michael Morse either a first baseman or trade chip and a starter still on the list of things the NL East Champs need before they start the 2013 campaign. As for Morse, Rizzo was quoted by the Washington Times' Amanda Comak stating that he'd taken several phone calls about the 30-year-old slugger, but said the Nats were not calling other teams.
(ed. note - "[tilts caps slightly askew to the right on his head in respect for Burnett if his days in D.C. are indeed over.])