After missing out on veteran right-handed reliever Darren O'Day, who returned to the Baltimore Orioles on a four-year deal, Washington Nationals' General Manager Mike Rizzo was asked on Monday if the Nats were still in the market for late-inning arms?
Were the Nationals, with Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen on the roster, still pursuing bullpen arms this winter as they tried to upgrade the back end of the 'pen?
"I'll answer that by saying whatever way we can improve the ballclub, improve the bullpen specifically in your question, we'd certainly look into it," Rizzo said.
Stacking the bullpen with late-inning arms is, of course, the trend these days.
"I think that that's a way that teams have been attacking their roster construction as of late," Rizzo acknowledged.
"Kansas City has shown that a really lights out, super bullpen is a way of winning championships. There's a lot of ways to construct a roster and that's one of them and I think that you're seeing more and more resources being put into bullpen pieces."
That approach has predictably led to big contracts for late-inning arms.
"It's market value," Rizzo said.
"The market is what the market bears and those are talented pitchers coming off good seasons last year and supply and demand -- the supply was short and the demand was high and that's when you make your best deals."
Over the last few days, the Nationals, who signed left-hander Oliver Perez before the Winter Meetings, have added a number of relievers, reportedly agreeing on deals with free agent right-handers Shawn Kelley and Yusmeiro Petit and today trading for hard-throwing, 23-year-old reliever Trevor Gott in a deal that sent veteran infielder Yunel Escobar to the Los Angeles Angels.
Shawn Kelley signing saga is complete. Agrees to 3-year deal with #nationals. Total payout in the $15-16M neighborhood.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 10, 2015
Source: Yusmeiro Petit's deal with Nats is for $3M. Salary is $2.5M this season, option for 2017 at $3M w/ $500K buyout, vests at 80 IP.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 11, 2015
In a short period of time, the Nationals went a long way towards restocking their bullpen.
Perez, 34, gives the Nats a late-inning lefty to go along with young southpaw Felipe Rivero.
In his 13th major league campaign in 2015, Perez put up a 4.17 ERA, a 3.30 FIP, 15 walks (3.29 BB/9) and 51 Ks (11.20 K/9) in 41 innings, holding left-handers to a .194/.242/.290 line.
Kelley, 31, who posted a 2.45 ERA, a 2.57 FIP, 15 walks (2.63 BB/9) and 63 Ks (11.05 K/9) in 51 ⅓ innings pitched for San Diego in 2015, has a low 90s heater (91.9 mph average) and a slider (82.8 mph) that opposing hitters had a .169 AVG against last season.
Petit, 31, gives manager Dusty Baker a middle relief option after the Nationals non-tendered Craig Stammen, who they struggled to replace last season when he tore flexor tendons in his right arm and underwent season-ending surgery.
The veteran of eight major league seasons put up a 3.67 ERA, a 4.09 FIP, 15 walks (1.78 BB/9) and 59 Ks (6.99 K/9) in 42 games and 76 innings pitched.
Gott, 23, gives the Nationals a hard-throwing, young, controllable arm.
His fastball, which opposing hitters had a .217 AVG against in his first major league campaign last season, averages 96.1 mph.
In his first major league campaign, the former San Diego Padres' 6th Round pick (2013), was (4-2) with a 3.02 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 16 walks (3.02 BB/9) and 27 Ks (5.10 K/9) in 47 ⅔ IP.
The Nationals, who sent cash considerations to the Angels in the deal, also received 28-year-old right-hander Michael Brady.
Brady pitched at Double-A in LA's system in 2015, putting up a 3.77 ERA, a 2.87 FIP, 12 walks (0.91 BB/9) and 113 Ks (8.52 K/9) in 119 ⅓ innings.
In giving up Yunel Escobar, who was coming off a bounce-back campaign which saw the 33-year-old infielder put up a .314/.375/.415 line with 25 doubles and nine home runs in 139 games and 591 plate appearances, the Nationals dealt from a position of depth, though it did leave them with relatively inexperienced options at short as of now.
"We've got good depth at the shortstop position. We feel comfortable that Danny Espinosa, [Yunel] Escobar, Trea Turner, [Wilmer] Difo can all play shortstop and second base so we feel good about where we're at in the middle infield," Rizzo said earlier this week.
Is there another move to come this winter, or will the Nationals let Espinosa, Turner and Difo battle it out for the middle infield positions with Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman at the corners?
A reporter wondered this week if the Nats were considering signing a shortstop who could play there until the Nationals felt that Turner was ready to take over on an everyday basis?
"No, we have not discussed any short-term, stop-gap, shortstops, no," he said. So how close is Turner to being major-league ready? What does he still have to prove?
"I think he has to prove consistency, defensive consistency and just logging some at bats," Rizzo said.
"[Don't] forget, he only played one full season of professional baseball out of college, so he's been on a whirlwind tour of the development system and obviously he's got tremendous talent that allows him to do that and he's handled it terrifically."
So what chance is there that the 22-year-old starts the season at short?
"I don't rule anything out," Rizzo said.
The Nationals have been mentioned in connection to a few free agent starters. One report tonight said they're in the mix for free agent outfielder Jason Heyward.
It's been a busy week for Washington's Nationals, and it's not over yet...