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Nats in discussions with reliever Kelley, but no deal yet

Dec 8, 2015, 5:23 PM EDT

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NASHVILLE — The Nationals have been in discussions with right-hander Shawn Kelley at the Winter Meetings, general manager Mike Rizzo said, but the club has not come to terms with the free-agent reliever yet.

“We have not completed a deal with Kelly, no,” Rizzo said during his Tuesday afternoon session with reporters at the Opryland Resort.

The Nationals have made no secret about their interest in overhauling their bullpen this winter and have talked with just about every available free agent, as well as clubs willing to listen to trade offers for relievers. Kelley wouldn’t necessarily fall at the top of their wish list, but he would fill a need as a middle reliever and possible setup man.

Kelley, who turns 32 in April, owns a 3.67 ERA in 289 career big-league appearances with the Mariners, Yankees and Padres but is coming off a breakthrough season in San Diego in which he posted a 2.45 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 53 games.

Kelley doesn’t have overpowering stuff — his fastball has consistently averaged about 92 mph over his career — but he does own one of baseball’s best strikeout rates (more than 11 per 9 innings each of the last three years) thanks to a hard-breaking slider, a pitch he threw 55 percent of the time this season.

In Washington, Kelley could take over the role held the last two seasons by Aaron Barrett (another right-handed middle man who relies on his slider but will miss the majority of 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery).

Though they have yet to land a big-name, back-of-the-bullpen arm this winter, the Nationals have begun to assemble some other pieces necessary to rebuild their relief corps. In addition to Kelley, they signed veteran left-hander Oliver Perez to a 2-year, $7 million deal last week, as well as former Nats lefty Sean Burnett to a minor-league contract.

The big questions, of course, remain at the back end of the pen. The Nationals have been fielding offers for both Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen, though to date they haven’t found a deal they’re willing to make. At the same time, they have been pursuing experienced late-inning options like Darren O’Day (who signed with the Orioles for 4 years and $31 million) and Aroldis Chapman (whose reported trade to the Dodgers has been held up amid allegations of domestic assault by the Cincinnati closer).

  1. naterialguy - Dec 8, 2015 at 5:40 PM

    I gotta tell you I am getting tired of reporters reporting without verifying. They are becoming the boy who cried wolf. Eventually nobody is going to listen.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Dec 8, 2015 at 5:55 PM

      I’m not sure what I’m about to write applies to the initial reports about Mr. Kelley’s signing, but an awful lot of the ‘reporting’ these days isn’t done by (what I would consider) reporters. While you don’t have to have gone to journalism school to be a good reporter, you do have to apply (or have applied to your work by a real editor) certain professional standards. And the rush to be the first to put ‘breaking news’ into the Twitter-sphere has meant that even some real reporters are skipping the run-it-by-the-editor part.

    • veejh - Dec 8, 2015 at 7:29 PM

      Agree. 3 times so far this off season. Bud Black, O’Day, and now Kelley. I woke up this am to the news of Kelley and was quite happy most of the day until I checked back in during lunch only to find out it was b.s. Bummer.

  2. fpa4356 - Dec 8, 2015 at 6:12 PM

    off-topic : The Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen is reportedly steamed about being Storen’d by the putative Chapman deal. IF the Chapman deal goes through, how about a straight-up trade with the Dodgers, Jansen for Storen, or Jansen for Papelbon ?

    • scnatsfan - Dec 8, 2015 at 6:17 PM

      Why don’t we have them add Puig and we can add Den Decker! Jansen is too talented, no way we get him for that.

      • ArVAFan - Dec 8, 2015 at 6:34 PM

        As long as Pap and Puig end up on opposite coasts. Talk about a volatile combination! WWE quality entertainment for sure.

    • virginiascopist - Dec 8, 2015 at 6:34 PM

      I kind of doubt the Chapman deal will happen, but if it does, I think Jansen’s reaction to being “demoted,” will seem like nothing compared to Papelbon’s reaction if he can’t close. However, if the Chapman deal doesn’t happen, I would still try to trade Storen to the Dodgers for Andre Ethier, with the Dodgers eating some of his salary.

      • veejh - Dec 8, 2015 at 7:30 PM

        Lest we not forget that Paps has a not trade clause.

      • lesatcsc - Dec 8, 2015 at 8:06 PM

        Why would the Dodgers think Storen would be happy to be a set-up man for them? Why would any team trade for a guy that will sulk all year and maybe break a couple thumbs along the way? I think the only market for Storen is going to be with a team looking for a closer. He’s a head case in any other role.

      • virginiascopist - Dec 8, 2015 at 8:15 PM

        I personally don’t think Storen would be happy in a setup role anywhere, but there is the perception that Storen would benefit from a change of scenery, and would be more accepting being an 8th inning guy in LA than in DC. Doubt it will happen, but worth a try.

  3. veejh - Dec 8, 2015 at 8:45 PM

    Zobrist off the table. Ugh.

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