While the baseball world waits to see if Washington and Pittsburgh can work out a deal that will bring Pirates’ outfielder Andrew McCutchen to the nation’s capital, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo and Co. in the front office continue to grind away at building the roster for the 2017 campaign.
Earlier this afternoon, the Nationals acquired Derek Norris from the San Diego Padres, giving them a third catcher in the mix along with backup Jose Lobaton (who agreed on a one-year deal, avoiding arbitration last night) and 23-year-old catcher Pedro Severino as they seemingly begin the process of moving on from the Wilson Ramos era behind the plate in D.C.
The Nationals also announced that they non-tendered veteran outfielder Ben Revere while tendering contracts to their four remaining arbitration-eligible players (Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Tanner Roark and Danny Espinosa).
Meanwhile, rumors swirl about what the Nationals will do to fill one of their other acknowledged needs: a late-inning arm.
Rizzo reportedly checked in on the high-end relievers like Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller this past summer, before acquiring Mark Melancon from the Pirates in return for left-handers Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn.
Melancon was a rental, however, and he became a free agent this winter as expected, but that doesn’t mean he can’t come back to the Nationals.
In a rumor-filled article this morning at FanRag, Jon Heyman wrote that he’s hearing the Nats once again think the cost on Chapman will be prohibitive.
“The Nats seem to feel Aroldis Chapman will be too much money,” Heyman reported, “... and [they] seem to be focusing on bringing back Mark Melancon, who they loved on the mound and in the clubhouse.”
Melancon was 17 for 18 converting save opportunities for the Nationals after he was acquired, posting a 1.82 ERA, a 2.07 FIP, and a .202/.224/.279 line against in 29 2⁄3 IP for the Nats.
ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reported on Twitter this afternoon that while Melancon won’t command the kind of contract Chapman and Kenley Jansen are expected to command this winter, he won’t come cheap:
If Melancon's number sounds high, one exec predicts Kenley Jansen could get 5 yrs and $80-90M. It's a good winter to be a closer.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 2, 2016
Will the Nationals spend big on a closer?
As Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies this summer, after acquiring Melancon from the Bucs, they have before:
“We’ve paid for closers in the past,” Rizzo said. “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.”
Will they spend big on a closer again this winter? $60M big? Is 5-years/$80-90M for Chapman or Jansen completely out of the question?