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Washington Nationals Rumors: Dusty Baker on Mark Melancon to Giants, Nats’ search for a closer

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Dusty Baker talked about the Nationals losing Mark Melancon to free agency and the Nats’ search for a closer in a press conference at the Winter Meetings.

MLB: Winter Meetings Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. - In an MLB Network Radio interview from the Gaylord Resort and Convention Center at the Winter Meetings earlier this week, Washington Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker expressed some disappointment over the fact that veteran closer Mark Melancon opted to sign with the San Francisco Giants instead of returning to the nation’s capital.

Melancon got a 4-year/$62M contract from the Giants.

While the Nationals were willing to go to four years, reportedly, General Manager Mike Rizzo told reporters earlier this week the Melancon ultimately took more money from the Giants.

“At the end of the day, the Giants offered him more and he took the deal,” Rizzo said.

Baker was asked where he thought the Nationals would turn next in their search for a late-inning arm, or who they might use to close out games.

“Right now we’re not really sure who we’re going to go with,” he said.

“I hate losing Melancon, because I’m going to tell you, he was very good, but we’ve still got a chance on landing some guys.”

In an interview this afternoon, Baker talked again about missing out on Melancon when he was asked how much input he had as the Nationals pursued the closer this winter.

“I got input,” Baker joked, “but I'm not putting in money and that's what real input it is, you know what I mean? And so my input was such that — we all wanted Melancon, but we don't have the budget or the packed stadium for 800 games in a row like the Giants do. They have more resources than we do. We’ve got a lower budget and everybody has a budget.”

“If we would have spent that on Melancon,” Baker continued, “we wouldn't have been able to spend anything on anybody else. But you've got to do what you can do inside the budget. If I had real input, I would have probably spent another $200 million.”

Some reports which have speculated that the Nationals might be interested in Aroldis Chapman, who is reportedly seeking a six-year deal as a free agent, and is believed to have a $92M offer on the table, have included Washington in the market for the lefty based not only on their need in the bullpen, but in part on the relationship Baker has with the left-hander from their shared history in Cincinnati.

Baker was asked if he thought that history factor into the equation and whether the Nationals do pursue the hard-throwing southpaw this winter?

“It factors into it,” he said. “I don't know if we have approached him or not. I asked and I didn't get a definitive answer, at that time, so I assumed we hadn't done it.

“But as important as relationships are, I've just learned that most of the time the salary supersedes the relationship.”

In discussing the possibility of going into the season with an inexperienced closer if the Nationals have to go with an in-house option, Baker said it was too early in the winter for that sort of speculation or for worrying about how things will shake out.

“The winter is not over yet,” he explained. “So you can't be fearful of something that still has a chance to fill that position. So, it would be different if we were in, you know, late February, you know, late January, early February.

“And somebody always emerges. I believe that, that somebody will come forward. They will separate themselves from the pack. But in the meantime, we're still looking to fill that void.”