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Washington Nationals Rumors: Nats returning to Andrew McCutchen talks? Closer search?

Two of the Nationals’ top targets, Chris Sale and Mark Melancon, are off the board. Will they revisit Andrew McCutchen talks now? And their closer search?

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. - Having missed out on both Mark Melancon and Chris Sale, the question now is where will GM Mike Rizzo and the Washington Nationals turn? There are plenty of suggestions on Twitter so we thought we’d collect a few while waiting for Rizzo to talk this afternoon on Day 2 of the 2016 MLB Winter Meetings in National Harbor, Maryland’s Gaylord Resort and Convention Center.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Rob Biertempfel wrote, citing “industry sources” this morning, that at some point during the negotiation between the Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates on Andrew McCutchen, “... the Nationals rebuffed the Pirates' offer to swap McCutchen for outfielder Victor Robles and pitcher Lucas Giolito.”

Reports over the last 24 hours said that the Nationals were willing to include Robles and Giolito in a package for Chris Sale, who was traded to the Boston Red Sox in the last few hours.

Now that the Nats missed out on Sale, will they revisit the talks on McCutchen?’s Jon Heyman’s and MASN’s Byron Kerr’s sources are saying they will:

Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker, asked about the pursuit of McCutchen, talked about what the addition of the outfielder would mean to the Nationals’ lineup, and he offered his thoughts on the 30-year-old outfielder’s “down year” in 2016 in an MLB Network Radio interview this afternoon:

“What it does, it sets my lineup with [Daniel] Murphy and Bryce Harper and the people that I have already. I can mix and match, I can go right/left/right, I can do a whole bunch of things to oppose the opposition. But you know something? In his defense, everybody, I think in modern baseball, there is no such thing as a down year, where in our time, sometimes you have that year where nothing falls, you have that year where you’re a bit hurt, sometimes you just have a down year, and that’s what is going to make you more determined to come back the next year.”

Can the Nationals and Pirates find some way to work out a deal at this point?

Will the Nationals turn to other outfield targets like free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler? Do they talk to the White Sox and see if they can get Adam Eaton?

The Nationals are still in the market for a closer as well, after missing out on Melancon.

Here’s what Baker said on MLB Network Radio about the search for a late-inning arm:

“Right now we’re not really sure who we’re going to go with. I hate losing [Mark] Melancon, because I’m going to tell you, he was very good, but we’ve still got a chance on landing some guys.”

Heyman and New York Post writer Joel Sherman wrote on Twitter this afternoon that there are reasons to think the Nationals could pursue hard-throwing left-hander Aroldis Chapman, who is reportedly looking for a six-year deal and expected to get somewhere between $80-$100M this winter:

In a follow-up article this afternoon, Heyman wrote that while, “Chapman may prove too pricy at this point... GM Mike Rizzo and manager Dusty Baker both love Chapman’s game.” Enough to pay what he’s reportedly asking?

Rizzo was asked last night if the cost of the top free agent arms like Chapman and Kenley Jansen was prohibitive.

He didn’t exactly answer the question directly, but here’s what he had to say:

“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. 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.”

We’ll see what Rizzo has to say when he meets with reporters later this afternoon...