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Nationals Rumors: Nats’ closer search - Aroldis Chapman? Mark Melancon?

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Where will Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office find the next late-inning arm?

MLB: World Series-Cleveland Indians at Chicago Cubs Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Rizzo and Co. in Washington’s front office pursued Aroldis Chapman when the Cincinnati Reds were fielding offers for the hard-throwing left-hander last winter.

Rizzo later acknowledged interest in Chapman, who’d been a target for the Nationals at various times over the years, but when news of a previously unreported domestic dispute came out, the Nats stepped back from their pursuit.

"It's changed, obviously, with the allegations against him," Rizzo said.

"It's something that we're not going to continue to go after until we find out how things have happened. It's something that we don't want to get into that because of the allegations against him.”

Chapman was eventually dealt to the New York Yankees in late December, but he was made available again as the non-waiver deadline approached and the Nationals made another attempt to acquire the closer only to get outbid by the eventual World Series champion Chicago Cubs.

“The Cubs obviously wanted him worse than we did and they got themselves one of the elite closers in the game,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN’s The Sports Junkies after the deal went down, with two top Cubs’ prospects (Gleyber Torres and Bill McKinney), a “lottery ticket” of a minor league hitter (Rashad Crawford) and major league-caliber pitcher (Adam Warren) going to the Yankees.

“They gave up a king's ransom to get him and that's part of their plan,” Rizzo said.

“There was no way we were going to come close to matching that deal for a two-month rental,” he explained.

This winter, Chapman is available again, however, and this time it will only cost the team that signs him cash since the now-28-year-old reliever is a free agent.

Coming off a dominant season which saw the closer save 36 games while posting a 1.55 ERA, a 1.42 FIP, 18 walks (2.79 BB/9), 90 Ks (13.97 K/9) and a .157/.225/.227 line against in 58 innings, over which he was worth 2.7 fWAR, Chapman is going to get paid like the elite closer he has become.

Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo, in his weekly Sunday Baseball Notes column this weekend, once again put the Nationals in the mix for Chapman’s services.

“The Nationals, Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers are emerging as possible destinations for Chapman,” Cafardo wrote, noting that, “[w]e’re not completely sure whether the Cubs are out of the picture.”

MLBTradeRumors.com is predicting a 5-year/$90M free agent deal.

Jon Heyman, at FanRagSports, has the left-hander getting $85M over five years in his own free agent salary predictions.

Rizzo noted this past summer, after acquiring Mark Melancon in the days before the non-waiver deadline, that the Nationals have paid for closers before and could again if necessary since he knew that Melancon too was a rental.

Melancon is a free agent now as well.

Cafardo notes in his Boston Globe column that the right-hander is expected, “... to be hot commodity in free agency,” and adds that, “Melancon said he had ‘no preference’ as to where he ends up,” with the Nationals “interested again” and the Dodgers, Giants and Rangers mentioned as “potential landing spots”.

Will Melancon return to D.C.? Will Rizzo finally get Chapman after years of interest? Is there a trade out there (Wade Davis?) that could provide a late-inning arm?

Will the Nationals spend big on a closer, or find another deal to address their bullpen needs?