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Bullpen market continues to thin

Dec 7, 2015, 11:13 AM EDT

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NASHVILLE — Here’s the biggest dilemma facing the Nationals at the Winter Meetings, which officially began this morning: They desperately need to acquire quality, late-inning relievers while at the same time they desperately need to deal away a couple of quality, late-inning relievers.

Does this meet the definition of irony?

Mike Rizzo and Co. are juggling a bunch of different balls in the air right now. They’re trying to gauge what interest there could be in Drew Storen and Jonathan Papelbon, fully recognizing the challenges involved in moving either disgruntled closer. They’re also talking to just about every available late-inning reliever, both via free agency and trade.

So far, they’ve come up short on both ends. There should be some legitimate interest in Storen, though it’s tough to say how much the Nationals can reasonably expect to receive in exchange for a reliever entering his walk year and due to earn close to $9 million in 2016 via arbitration. It’s hard to imagine there’s much of any interest, however, in Papelbon, who in addition to making $11 million in 2016 comes with all sorts of baggage, the latest being the grievance he reportedly has filed against the Nats for withholding his pay during their team-imposed 4-game suspension at season’s end.

As far as the search for new relievers goes, the challenge is only getting tougher by the hour. Darren O’Day’s 4-yeal deal with the Orioles isn’t official yet, but it’s expected to be finalized soon. Ryan Madson signed a 3-year deal with the Athletics. Joakim Soria just signed a 3-year deal with the Royals.

And on the trade front, the big shoe just dropped this morning: The Reds are sending Aroldis Chapman to the Dodgers, according to FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal. The Nationals have long been interested in Chapman, including at the July trade deadline, but could not come up with a package of prospects to meet Cincinnati’s demands.

So where exactly does that leave the Nats at this point? It’s not a pretty picture.

The best remaining available free-agent relievers include old pal Tyler Clippard, veteran right-hander Mark Lowe and lefties Tony Sipp and Antonio Bastardo. No closers in that bunch (with all due respect to Clippard).

There are a few remaining trade candidates. Mark Melancon of the Pirates would be intriguing, though he’s entering his walk year. The Rays’ Brad Boxberger (who saved 41 games this season) may be available, and he has four years of control remaining. There are rumblings that the Yankees could be willing to move Andrew Miller (who is signed for three more years and $27 million). And perhaps Kenley Jansen (suddenly in position to get “Storen-ed” with today’s acquisition of Chapman) could force the Dodgers to trade him.

None of those names, of course, are sure things or easily acquired. And so the Nationals find themselves exactly where they were at season’s end: They desperately want to acquire quality, late-inning relievers while at the same time desperately wanting to trade away a couple of quality, late-inning relievers.

  1. ogremj - Dec 7, 2015 at 11:22 AM

    Well, at least we got Oliver Perez….

  2. Doc - Dec 7, 2015 at 11:24 AM

    What’s with the Yanks trying to move Andrew Miller?

    He had the kind of year in ’15 that they signed him for last winter.His K rate is up there with Chapman’s.

    • letsallbaseball - Dec 7, 2015 at 11:37 AM

      Yeah I’m wondering that too. But I just read they are looking at Asdrubal Cabrera, noting that they are on a tight budget. Maybe we can swing a trade involving Escobar to grab Miller.

      • langleyclub - Dec 7, 2015 at 11:45 AM

        The Nats would need to give up more than Cabrera to get Miller.

      • letsallbaseball - Dec 7, 2015 at 11:49 AM

        I’m going to assume you meant Escobar, not Cabrera, since we only have one of those guys. But my post said:

        “… trade *involving* Escobar… ” not “Escobar straight up”.

        It would definitely cost us more than just Yunel. Plus they’d be taking a chance on him playing second base since he has almost no experience there. But the AL would be good for Escobar I think.

      • letswin3 - Dec 7, 2015 at 12:54 PM

        I like your thinking here. Miller is under contract through ’18 at a fixed $9 million per year. Maybe the Nats could find a way to package Yunel with Storen and some salary sharing to get a deal like this done??? Of course a deal with the Dogers for Jansen could fit right into our needs too.

      • virginiascopist - Dec 7, 2015 at 1:07 PM

        If the Dodgers were inclined to trade Jansen now that they have Chapman because they don’t believe Jansen would like being demoted (sound familiar?), then surely we wouldn’t be able to send them Storen or Pap. And I think there is still bad blood between Kasten and the Nats.

      • Jay Cee Bullock - Dec 7, 2015 at 2:46 PM

        Could you see Storen in NY? He would be in an asylum by season’s end!

  3. ArVAFan - Dec 7, 2015 at 11:30 AM

    Hmm. Move “quality” relievers. Depends on your definition of “quality,” especially in one case.

  4. langleyclub - Dec 7, 2015 at 11:49 AM

    CBS is reporting that Dodgers, Giants, Nats and Mets are all bidding on Zobrist.

    • Doc - Dec 7, 2015 at 12:53 PM

      Man I’m so not in on a 4yr. contract for Ben Zobrist.

      He’s a utility-DH guy that belongs in the AL. He’d become our new Hairston.

  5. philipd763 - Dec 7, 2015 at 12:04 PM

    The longer Rizzo sits on his hands, the more attractive Storen and Papplebon look to him. Obviously, the Lerners have closed their wallets so Rizzo we be left to his usual dumpster dipping in January.

    • langleyclub - Dec 7, 2015 at 12:09 PM

      Don’t disagree, but there is a long history of big money wasted on bullpen arms. The two best bullpens in baseball over the last few years (Royals and Cards) built them on cheap home-grown talent, and cast-offs from other organizations. Traditionally, there is little value in investing big bucks in bullpens.

      With that said, Rizzo will be crushed if the Nats bullpen implodes again in 2016.

      Wonder if the Nats are considering bringing Clippard back.

      • philipd763 - Dec 7, 2015 at 12:17 PM

        I suspect the bloom is off the rose on Clippard. It was obvious the Mets manager, Terry Collins, didn’t trust him in the WS. He’s thrown too many relief innings, which is one of the reasons Rizzo traded him while he still had value.

    • naterialguy - Dec 7, 2015 at 2:49 PM

      The longer he sits on them the more their value goes up too. They both have to be considered two of the best relievers available right now. Because of our experience we tend to look at those two thrown gray colored glasses but the stats say otherwise.

  6. philipd763 - Dec 7, 2015 at 12:13 PM

    Like it or not, Ted Lerner shot his wad last winter when he signed Scherzer. Unless someone like Mark Cuban buys the team, I see the Nats’ spending on free agents restrained for years. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since so many high priced free agents turn out to be duds.

  7. generalcornrowwallace2 - Dec 7, 2015 at 12:18 PM

    I have to say all this pummeling of Rizzo (not so much on this thread *yet*, more so on others) is foolish in my opinion. It’s not the Lerner family tying his hands. It is a philosophy he has as a General Manager and that is to not overpay, primarily in years, for over 30 relievers. No matter the track record we all know relievers are the most fickle position in baseball. I would love to have O’Day, but not for his age 37 season. I would love to have Chapman, but not as a rental for one year costing me my farm system.

    This is a tough spot to be in, the market for relievers is thin and the prices are being driven up. I would almost rather Rizzo hold off, sign another Oliver Perez type or two and let things start to take shape during Spring Training. There will be surprises, releases from other club, injuries to other clubs opening up new trade possibilities and there will be tons of trade opportunities during the season.

    I think Rizzo is playing this perfectly.

    Troll / Morons like JayB can take their bashing of Rizzo and shove it. If Rizzo made all the moves that numb-nutz beats him up for not making our roster would be bloated, old and our farm system would be depleted. Be thankful that guy is not making roster decisions for your team!

    • letsallbaseball - Dec 7, 2015 at 12:30 PM

      In my anecdotal experience, the people who complain about not signing free agents into their late thirties for immediate success are generally the same people who will complain about having late thirties players on the team. Just complainers.

    • unkyd59 - Dec 7, 2015 at 1:16 PM

      I’m with you, General!

    • naterialguy - Dec 7, 2015 at 2:52 PM

      Attack the post, not the poster please.

      • natsfan1a - Dec 7, 2015 at 4:21 PM

        Seconding Naterialguy here.

  8. philipd763 - Dec 7, 2015 at 12:24 PM

    As I see it, Pappelbon is not tradeable and the Lerners are not going to eat his salary. There’s no way Rizzo can get fair value in return for Storen either. Why would a prominent reliever want to come on board with this sad situation unresolved?

    • letswin3 - Dec 7, 2015 at 1:04 PM

      I hadn’t considered this part of the equation. You’re right, if I’m a reliever considering Washington, I wouldn’t want to place myself in the middle of a soap opera riddled with the presence of a whiner and an emotional time bomb … both with a reason to compromise my mission.

      • ArVAFan - Dec 7, 2015 at 1:08 PM

        I would consider it if I were Jansen and I knew I’d close–and that Pap and Storen would both be gone.

      • lesatcsc - Dec 7, 2015 at 7:58 PM

        I think Papelbon will be the Nats closer this year. He’s a good pitcher that fans don’t like. Yes, he did something stupid last year. Find me someone who hasn’t. The real issue is where is Harper on all this. Is he honestly past it or is he saying that to be politically correct? We don’t know but Rizzo probably does. If it’s awful, then Papelbon goes for a bag of balls and the Nats hope to either land a decent reliever or that Rivera is ready to take on that role. But if Bryce is over it, I don’t see Rizzo making a dumb baseball move to appease the fans.

        Storen is a different issue; the Nats have no confidence in him to be the closer in October. Storen goes because that is a baseball decision.

  9. unkyd59 - Dec 7, 2015 at 12:30 PM

    Whoa!! I just heard that Ken Beatrice passed, yesterday…. What a character…

    • infideljack - Dec 7, 2015 at 12:41 PM

      I always liked Ken. He will be missed. RIP.

    • donniebenth - Dec 7, 2015 at 12:42 PM

      Really sad. Ken was the voice of my childhood. My little clock radio was my prized possession. I’d stay up late listening to “You’re next! on Sports Call.”

      • ehay2k - Dec 7, 2015 at 6:25 PM

        Sorry to hear that. I too had my AM clock radio tuned in to listen to Ken. He was a great story teller, so great, that some of his “scouting reports” on players were apparently complete fabrications. But he was good for sports, and good for this young sports fan. RIP Ken.

  10. infideljack - Dec 7, 2015 at 12:59 PM

    Today is the 74th Anniversary of the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor. We lost 2403 Americans as a result of the sneak attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy. Japan is now our friend because we defeated them and then helped them rebuild their country. God Bless America and the people who built and defended America over the years. God Bles the heroes serving in our military, police, fire and as emergency medical personel. These people put their lives on the line to protect us every day.

    • ArVAFan - Dec 7, 2015 at 1:09 PM

      + about a zillion.

      • natsfan1a - Dec 7, 2015 at 4:22 PM

        + a zillion zillion

    • therealjohnc - Dec 7, 2015 at 7:44 PM

      +1 more for luck! And another blessing for the diplomats and other public servants that go into harm’s way on our behalf. They don’t wear uniforms, but they also serve.

  11. Eugene in Oregon - Dec 7, 2015 at 1:57 PM

    Setting aside the very fair question of whether it makes complete sense to offer Ben Zobrist a four-year contract, signing him now (in Nashville) would give the Nats the add flexibility they need to pursue trades for one of the mid- to upper-level relievers purportedly on the market. With Mr. Zobrist in hand, the Nats could move any one (or two) of Yunel Escobar, Danny Espinosa, or Wilmer Difo (I assume Trea Turner is off limits) as part of a multi-player package. But, as I interpret it, they need Mr. Zobrist’s versatiliy in hand before moving one or more of those three.

    • ArVAFan - Dec 7, 2015 at 2:33 PM

      I could definitely see Rizzo “selling high” on Espinosa and Escobar, and he might have to throw in Difo depending on the trade. But Rizzo hasn’t lost his ability to surprise, so our 40-man may look quite different by the time the GM’s do the Rule 5 draft, find their way out of that crazy hotel, and head home.

  12. Jay Cee Bullock - Dec 7, 2015 at 2:48 PM

    Versatility? Espinosa is versatile, too, so versatility is not a big deal to me.

  13. JayB - Dec 7, 2015 at 3:12 PM

    So I am a moron and a troll?

    Did I hire MW? Did I refuse to face facts about MW even as players lost more and more confidence in him as a leader and even an average in game manager. Did I ignore the 2014 Playoff moves?

    Did I trade for Pap and say I did all the due diligence needed and then ignore how stupid and poor that decision was until it blew up? Did I say Pap and I will talk and get this all settled a week or two after the season ends and then do nothing to proactively prevent this freak show?

    So am a moron and a troll?

    • nats106 - Dec 7, 2015 at 3:23 PM

      No you’re pretty f—g smart. Troll, probably, but see my post below. It takes one to know one.

    • naterialguy - Dec 7, 2015 at 3:53 PM

      Like I said above. One should attack the post, not the poster.

      • natsfan1a - Dec 7, 2015 at 4:23 PM

        Seconding Naterialguy. Again.

  14. Section 222 - Dec 7, 2015 at 3:16 PM

    I’ll be fascinated to see what the Dodger bullpen looks like this year. Jansen is entering his last arbitration year and will be a FA next year. He has no real reason to be upset about a “demotion.” He’s going to get a nice big bump in arbitration and next year when he hits the open market, he’ll get paid what the market will bear as one of the best relievers in baseball. Maybe there are some teams that want to lowball him because he was “just” a setup guy for Chapman, but certainly not all of them will.

    That is one heckuva shutdown bullpen if they hold onto Jansen. If not, the Nats would be smart to try to get him.

  15. nats106 - Dec 7, 2015 at 3:22 PM

    Maybe somebody commented on this and I missed it: but irony in trading for but dealing quality late inning relievers? I see no irony, only pain there. There’s a huge difference between quality late inning relievers whose stock is down vs. up. We have guys that we’ll be hard pressed to trade (although I’m one of the few still in a “yes” to Drew Storen camp) and get any value.

    How to you put a price tag on high quality/low class reliever. We should find that answer out shortly. I can’t imagine Papelbon will be here too much longer.

    I am less and less encouraged by the 2016 seasons prospects. The new model for this franchise that I thought was really well run just 2 short years ago (both front office management and sales/marketing) seems to be the Deadskins who lead professional sports in total dysfunction.

    Hope I’m wrong, but…..

    • jfmii - Dec 7, 2015 at 4:11 PM

      That’s a big leap

  16. sillsfan - Dec 7, 2015 at 3:28 PM

    Cmon Rizzo!
    Per Steve Adams at MLB Trade Rumors:

    Dodgers’ Deal For Chapman Not Yet Complete

    By Steve Adams | December 7, 2015 at 2:13pm CST

    2:13pm: The trade is not yet finished, according to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon (links to Twitter). Not only that, but Sheldon hears that there are other clubs involved who could swoop in and acquire Chapman at the last minute.

    • TimDz - Dec 7, 2015 at 3:37 PM

      2:33pm: ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweets that the Reds are now telling other clubs no trade for Chapman has been agreed upon. Stark certainly implies that the Dodgers believed a trade to be done, adding: “I don’t think [the] Dodgers agree.”

      Sounds like this could get a bit messy…

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