Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Washington Nationals’ front office looked at the big ticket closers available at the non-waiver deadline this summer, but turned away, as Rizzo explained it, when they saw the asking price.
Aroldis Chapman was eventually dealt from the New York Yankees to the Chicago Cubs in return for a package that included shortstop Gleyber Torres, ranked No. 1 on Baseball America's list of the Cubs’ top prospects last winter, outfielders Billy McKinney (No. 7 on BA's list) and Rashad Crawford, 22, who was described by Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman as a talented "lottery ticket" in search of consistency, and Adam Warren, a one-time Yankee right-hander who returned to NY.
Rizzo, who has had a long-standing interest in Chapman, said he was disappointed to miss out on the hard-throwing left-hander again, but only until he saw the eventual return the Yankees received.
“There was no way we were going to come close to matching that deal for a two-month rental," Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies.
"The Yankees did a heck of a job. They got a great deal from the Cubs. The Cubs obviously wanted him worse than we did and they got themselves one of the elite closers in the game, but they gave up a king's ransom to get him and that's part of their plan.”
Andrew Miller, another rumored target, ended up going to the Cleveland Indians in return for J.P. Feyereisen (a 23-year-old right-hander out of Jordan Zimmermann’s alma mater, Wisconsin-Stevens Point), outfielder Clint Frazier (ranked No. 2 on BA’s list of Cleveland’s top prospects last winter), pitcher Justus Sheffield (ranked No. 4) and Ben Heller (a 25-year-old starter who made his MLB debut with NY this season).
Rizzo eventually dealt for Mark Melancon, sending now-25-year-old lefty Felipe Rivero and 22-year-old lefty Taylor Hearn to the Pittsburgh Pirates in return for the veteran right-hander, who was also a two-month rental.
The deal solved the Nationals’ back end of the bullpen issues, but as Rizzo said at the time, he knew they would be back in market for a closer again this winter.
“There are several closers on the market next year,” Rizzo said, though he wasn’t ruling out bringing Melancon back.
“We’ve paid for closers in the past. We’ve paid a lot of money for closers in the past and we’ll take a look at the landscape and where we can implement our dollars in the best way and the way to allocate our dollars in the best way and we’ll see where it goes.”
Late last month, in his first press conference after the season ended, Rizzo said he would be happy to bring Melancon back, but knew there were other options.
“It’s a broad, deep reliever market this year,” Rizzo told reporters, including MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, “and Mark is one of the elite relievers in the marketplace.”
The Nationals want to add one of those elite relievers, Rizzo said, preferring a closer with experience at the back of the bullpen.
“In a perfect world, you’d always like to have a guy that’s done it in the most competitive situations, but that’s not always possible,” Rizzo said.
“We’ve got a lot of options as far as guys with plus stuff and plus makeup, and it’s a deep relief market this year. So there’s different avenues to go and different routes that are attractive to us.”
Earlier this week, former Nats’ GM and current ESPN analyst Jim Bowden wrote that the Nationals, “... are committed to landing an impact closer and will make a strong effort to land either Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman or re-sign Mark Melancon.
“They'll also try to persuade the Indians to deal Andrew Miller for a package of top pitching prospects.”
Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo wrote this morning, in his weekly Sunday Baseball Notes column, that Rizzo liked how Melancon fit in D.C.
“He fit into our clubhouse beautifully. He was a great teammate,” Rizzo said, before reiterating that there were other, “in-house candidates or less-expensive options in free agency to fill the closer role.”
“It’s a deep group in free agency,” Rizzo said, “so you don’t have to go after that elite group to fill your needs.”
Cafardo noted elsewhere in the article that the San Francisco Giants, who are also in the market for a closer, have expressed interest in Melancon, “... and the Giants may also take a strong look at Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen as well in free agency, or explore a trade for White Sox closer David Robertson.”
Where will Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office turn if they can’t land one of the big-name closers available this winter? Which in-house options would the Nats turn to? Blake Treinen? Koda Glover? Shawn Kelley?
NOTES: Elsewhere in the Boston Globe article, Cafardo quotes Rizzo talking about the possibility of signing Bryce Harper to a long-term extension, telling him, “We’d love to have him long term, but that’s a two-way street.”
Will Harper and his agent Scott Boras look to sign an extension this winter, coming off a down season for the recently-turned 24-year-old outfielder?
Speaking of outfielders, Cafardo also discusses the Nationals’ plans for center field, writing that, “Rizzo expects [Trea] Turner to start in center field next season, though there is a scenario where Turner is at shortstop and Harper is in center.”
That scenario involves the Nationals signing an outfielder (Dexter Fowler is mentioned) and moving Turner to short.