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Washington Nationals Rumors: Can the Nats replace Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen?

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Will the Washington Nationals be able to deal both Drew Storen and Jonathan Papelbon this winter? That would leave a fairly big hole at the back of their bullpen. Nats' GM Mike Rizzo has his work cut out for him in the next few months, with a lot of questions...

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In his weekly "Inside Baseball" column/roundup of major league rumors and news, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman wrote this week that the Washington Nationals, "are expected to try to trade Drew Storen and Jonathan Papelbon," this winter.

He wishes the Nats good luck with the latter while noting that when it comes to Storen, he, "... absolutely has to go after the team showed what they thought of him as a closer by bringing in Papelbon to replace him."

"He's under contract. We're going to evaluate every moving part that we have after the season and we'll make all those decisions once the final out is made in 2015." -Mike Rizzo on Jonathan Papelbon's future in the nation's capital

The argument could, of course, be made that the Nationals were replacing their seventh and eighth inning options and Storen just paid the price for the lack of success of other members of the Nats' bullpen, though more than one writer out there said that the goal at this past July's deadline was to get a closer.

Washington Post reporter Barry Svrluga, in particular, in his extensive look at what went wrong in the nation's capital in 2015, reported that Papelbon was essentially a Plan B option after the cost of acquiring targets like the Cincinnati Reds' lefty Aroldis Chapman and Padres' righty Craig Kimbrel proved prohibitive.

While the "Nationals' primary need appeared to be a setup man," Svrluga wrote, "[s]ome Nationals officials... were scarred by the two most devastating losses in team history," Game 5 in 2012 and Game 2 in 2014, "both involving Storen," so, "[GM Mike] Rizzo’s mind was made up: closer."

Storen reportedly requested a trade after Papelbon was acquired before the non-waiver deadline, and the deal blew up in the Nationals' face when Papelbon decided to police 22-year-old NL MVP candidate Bryce Harper's effort late in the season, starting a dugout altercation which got unwanted national media attention and at least in part led to the veteran closer getting suspended for the remainder of the season, while all-but guaranteeing, according to most speculation, that he won't be back in D.C. in 2016.

Add to that the fact that in addition to Storen and Papelbon, Casey Janssen and Matt Thornton are expected to leave via free agency, and as Heyman wrote this week, the Nationals, "... really need a bullpen makeover," that includes innings seven-through-nine now, which could make for a busy and potentially expensive winter for Rizzo as he looks to rebuild/replace the entire back end of the bullpen from within or outside the organization.

The other question marks in Heyman's mind?

What happens at short if Trea Turner is, as he writes, potentially still a "half year away"? Yunel Escobar? Danny Espinosa?

Who starts the season at short, assuming that there isn't going to be a last-minute, out-of-nowhere agreement with Ian Desmond?

Is Michael Taylor ready to take over center on an everyday basis assuming Denard Span leaves via free agency?

Can Joe Ross and Tanner Roark takes Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister's spots in the rotation behind Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez?

There are a lot of questions about the Nationals' roster, considering Rizzo himself said he still thinks the window to compete for a World Series championship is open...

Speaking of Zimmermann:

Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo, in looking at which free agents-to-be this winter saw their stock rise or fall in 2015, writes that though Zimmermann, "didn’t have a great season," one National League scout said it's clear, "he cares," and, "'really competes," and he's a, "tough guy," so, "you take your chances with him," believing that, "he’ll step up to the moment.'"

Zimmermann finished his walk year with a 3.66 ERA (up from 2.66 in 2014 and 3.32 career average), a 3.75 FIP (up from 2.68/3.40), 7.32 K/9 (down from 8.20 in '14) and 1.74 BB/9 (up from 1.31 in '14) in 201 ⅔ IP, over which he was worth 3.0 fWAR (down from 5.3 in '14 and 3.7 in '13). He's still gonna get paid though....