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Washington Nationals Rumors: Nats’ plans after missing out on closer Mark Melancon

Having missed out on closer Mark Melancon, where will the Washington Nationals turn to fill their late-inning needs?

Division Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Washington Nationals - Game Five Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD: The Washington Nationals were interested in bringing Mark Melancon back to D.C. after acquiring the veteran closer from the Pittsburgh Pirates this past July, but Melancon is now a part of the San Francisco Giants’ bullpen.

He signed a 4-year/$62M free agent deal with the Giants this afternoon and officially announced the decision on his Twitter feed:

A report in the Washington Post this morning said the Nationals were willing to go to four years for Melancon, but their offer came in at less than $60M.

Asked about losing out on Melancon, GM Mike Rizzo said this afternoon that he thought the Nationals’ offer was competitive, but the reliever made his choice.

“We gave him an offer that we thought was market value, and what we were comfortable giving him,” Rizzo explained.

“You’re talking about one of the elite closers in the game, and a great teammate, conducted himself perfectly as a Washington National and it was just, at the end of the day, the Giants offered him more and he took the deal.

“That’s what free agency is all about. These players work extremely hard to become free agents and the market is whatever the market bears. They’ve got themselves a great citizen and a great pitcher.”

The Giants got their man. The Nationals, on the other hand, are still in the market for a closer after missing out on what was reportedly their first choice among free agents.

Rizzo was asked if he thought Melancon’s experience in D.C. and his success on the field might have convinced the 31-year-old, eight-year veteran to return to the Nationals?

“We had a great relationship here in the short time that [he] was here,” Rizzo said.

“He enjoyed his time here, he loved the fanbase, he loved the ballclub, he loved the clubhouse and his teammates, it just didn’t work out, that’s what happens in free agency.”

So now what? Do the Nationals make a play for one of the top two free agent relievers left on the board? Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen remain unsigned.

Chapman is reportedly looking for a six-year deal. He’s expected to get somewhere in the neighborhood of $90-$100M. Jansen too is expected to command something like five years and $90M. Rizzo was asked if he thought the price tag on the relievers was prohibitive?

“We’re going to allocate our resources in the best way we possibly can and if that’s a closer, fine, if that’s another position, fine,” Rizzo said, deftly working his way around the question.

“We’re going to give ourselves the best chance to get an impactful player at the right place and use our dollars the best way we can.”

The Nationals do, however, Rizzo said, still have to address their bullpen needs after losing Melancon to free agency and losing out in the bidding war for his services.

“The bullpen is something that we’d like to address,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of good in-house candidates. We feel that we have a talented, deep bullpen.

“Our adage over here is you never have enough pitching and the bullpen is something that we’re going to have to address.”

Rizzo was asked about one of the in-house options in particular, Koda Glover, the Nats’ 23-year-old, 2015 8th Round pick, who worked his way through five levels of the minor league system in two years and debuted in the majors in 2016, throwing a 96-99 mph fastball. He struggled down the stretch, however, and later admitted to a hip issue.

“I’m confident and comfortable that he’s going to be a good asset for the ballclub. He’s got good stuff, the right attitude, he’s got a little edge to him and a 98 mph fastball,” Rizzo said.

Glover, Blake Treinen, Shawn Kelley, Reynaldo Lopez (if they shift him to the bullpen)?

There are options within the organization, but the Nationals, judging by their actions this winter, clearly believe they need to add a late-inning arm to the mix.

Rizzo said today they’ll keep talking to other teams and pitchers and weigh their options.

“We’ve been active. I’ve been active,” he said. “My assistants have all been active. We worked the lobby.

“We were in the lobby late last night, we’ll probably be in the lobby late again tonight.”