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Washington Nationals Rumors: Nats make big push for Kenley Jansen, but he returns to LA

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The Washington Nationals aren’t having a lot of luck on the free agent closer market. Kenley Jansen was the last swing and miss apparently...

MLB: NLDS-Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Though Washington’s Nationals were reportedly willing to offer more money overall for his services, free agent closer Kenley Jansen has apparently decided to return to LA on a 5-year/$80M contract.

How seriously the Nationals and GM Mike Rizzo were pursuing Jansen was unclear until after the announcement he was staying with/returning to the Dodgers.

Rizzo was asked on Sunday afternoon, in an interview at the Nationals’ Winterfest event, if the team had indeed made an offer to the reliever.

“We’ve talked to his agent several times and we’re looking for back end of the bullpen help and we’re looking for bullpen help in general,” Rizzo said.

In the end, the Nationals did make a big push for Jansen only to come up short in their pursuit of the hard-throwing right-hander:

Before Jansen was off the market, Rizzo assessed the possibilities in the search for a late-inning arm.

“We’re going to look at all different aspects of it,” he said. “Bullpen construction, roster construction. There are a lot of — especially in the bullpen market — there are a lot of different ways you can do it. We’ve got a lot of different ideas and a lot of different strategies to employ. It’s still early in the offseason and we’re going to cast our net and acquire the best guy that fits for us.”

Rizzo and manager Dusty Baker also talked about the possibility of the solution ending up being an in-house arm.

“We’re all trying to create our closers in-house,” Rizzo explained. “We feel that we have candidates for closers in-house. Certainly have guys with the stuff to close, with the make-up, we just don’t have an experienced guy who has closed. I think that’s the best way to do it, but when you’re in a position where you need a closer and there are three elite closers on the market, the supply and the demand drives up these contracts.”

“We’ve got internal options to pitch the back of the games, guys who have the stuff to do it, the mentality to do it and the make-up to do it.”

Baker was asked if he preferred a reliever with big league experience closing out games.

“If there’s not one out there — we’re trying — if there’s not one out there we have to find him internally. Who knows if we have him in-house or not? Most guys don’t come out of college or the minor leagues as a closer. They evolve into it and we say, ‘[Voila], we’ve got a closer. That’s how it happens.”

“It’s not as secure as if you go out there and get somebody that has closed already, but at some point in time you’ve got to give these guys a chance.

“We have four or five guys that are probably vying for the position if we don’t get a closer, so it depends on them.”

Having traded their two top pitching prospects (Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez + 2016 draft pick Dane Dunning) to the Chicago White Sox in the deal for Adam Eaton, do the Nationals still feel comfortable dealing from their prospect depth if they are forced to trade for a late-inning arm?

“I think we do,” Rizzo said. “We have a really fertile minor league system that people have asked for throughout the winter so far.”