clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Washington Nationals Winter Meetings Preview: Can the Nats find bullpen arms?

New, 37 comments

Washington's GM Mike Rizzo is looking to add arms to the Nationals' bullpen as the Winter Meetings get underway in the Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, TN. Ben Zobrist? Drew Storen? Jonathan Papelbon's grievance?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Reporters flew in to Nashville, Tennessee and arrived at the Opryland Resort and Convention Center either last night-ish... or at some point this past weekend.

Executives from around the baseball world are gathering there as well for the Winter Meetings, which start today and last till December 10th.

"We need to get deeper. We need to have a more veteran presence. We need to have a greater skill set to get out both right-handers and left-handers..." -Mike Rizzo on need to improve Nationals' bullpen

What will Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo do this week? Just talk and lay groundwork or make some noise?

He's already brought Dusty Baker and his staff in to replace Matt Williams and a number of coaches, revamped the medical staff, signed a number of minor league deals and added a lefty reliever (Oliver Perez) to the 'pen on a two-year deal.

Washington's Nationals were rumored to be among the finalists for veteran reliever Darren O'Day's services though reports on Sunday said O'Day agreed on a deal to return to the Baltimore Orioles... but...

O'Day later disputed the reports on Twitter, saying he is not yet in agreement on a deal with the O's...

The bullpen is an obvious need and an acknowledged one for the Nationals, who, as mentioned, have been tied to O'Day and a number of other relievers.

Cincinnati Reds' closer Aroldis Chapman (who may be an LA Dodgers by the time the WM's officially start) and others (Tampa Bay's Brad Boxberger or Jake McGee?) make sense as targets as they attempt to rebuild the 'pen that was a big issue in 2015.

Will the Nats find takers for either or their closers (Drew Storen or Jonathan Papelbon), both of whom may be available in spite of the Nationals' desire to add relievers?

MLB.com's Bill Ladson cited multiple sources who said Storen, (who is 28 with one year of team control left at a projected $8M+), is going to be shopped this week.

If the Nationals do miss out on O'Day, where will they turn next? Who out there has young, controllable relievers?

"I think Dusty is going to bring us a renewed energy. He's really an upbeat person, kind of a renaissance man in his own right, knows a lot of people, a lot of stories, a lot of ways to motivate..." -Mike Rizzo on new Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker

What else will the Nationals look to add so that Dusty Baker has all he needs in his return to a major league bench?

With Jordan Zimmermann (now a Detroit Tiger) and Doug Fister (not expected back) out of the rotation, will the Nats look to add a starter or stick with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross and after them A.J. Cole or eventually, maybe, Lucas Giolito?

When GM Mike Rizzo was asked last month about potentially adding starting pitching, he told reporters, including Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes, that he was happy with the current options though open to any potential additions.

"I’m happy sliding Tanner and Joe in the rotation," Rizzo said, before adding that, "with that said, you can never have enough good starting pitching."

And this is the front office that signed Scherzer to a 7-year/$210M deal last winter, adding the right-hander (who threw two no-hitters btw) to what was viewed as an already-strong starting rotation...

And they did have both Strasburg and Fister struggle with injuries, though that did open up a chance for Ross to debut and earn his shot in 2016 with his performance.

And how about a left-handed bat?

Bryce Harper spoke to reporters at the end of the season and said the Nationals' lineup could use a left-handed hitter. Does the front office agree?

"Since 2012, we've won the third-most games in all of baseball. We've been to the playoffs twice. We've won two division titles in four years. Have we gotten to where we wanted to get? No. We want a World Championship in Washington, D.C." -Mike Rizzo on MLB Network's Hot Stove show

"The one thing we definitely need is another left-handed bat and hopefully a huge right-handed bat to hit behind me or in front of me," Harper told reporters, including MASN's Chris Johnson.

"If we can do that, that would definitely help us out and put us up to the top."

Do the Nationals trust Michael A. Taylor to take over every day in center field in 2015? Rizzo has said publicly they do.

Do they trust veterans Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman as everyday players they believe will be able to stay in the lineup?

How fast do the Nationals think Trea Turner will be major-league ready? Do they consider trading an infielder? Danny Espinosa? Yunel Escobar? Will they sell high on the controllable, affordable veteran?

Rumors this winter have the Nationals once again interested in adding Ben Zobrist, who they've reportedly pursued in previous seasons.

Zobrist, 34, is now a free agent, and he's reportedly seeking a four-year deal this winter.

He toured the East Coast this past week visiting teams and will reportedly talk to the Nationals in Nashville:

Will the Nationals add the super-utility man to their lineup? Will they give Zobrist the four-year deal he's reportedly after?

Zobrist would give the Nationals an infield option at second base and an outfielder who could spell Jayson Werth when necessary?

And now Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals' front office have one more thing to deal with as the Winter Meetings begin, with a report surfacing late Sunday night that Jonathan Papelbon filed a grievance against the Nats over the fact that he was suspended without pay after the dugout altercation with Bryce Harper which saw the veteran reliever choke the 23-year-old NL MVP.

Rizzo will reportedly address the situation when he meets with reporters on Monday, but the 35-year-old closer might have managed to make himself less-tradeable, which probably didn't seem possible before Sunday night...

More information, more rumors, more chatter when it's available...

[ed. note - " * = Rizzo Points to Head"]