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Posted at 12:30 PM ET, 12/ 6/2010

Nationals looking to add bullpen help

By Adam Kilgore

Already trying to fill a hole at first base and add starting rotation depth, the Nationals are also looking for a closer, according to a league source.

The Nationals had one of the strongest bullpens in baseball last year, and while they possess several candidates to close, none of their relievers have significant experience pitching in the ninth inning. Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett could all be candidates, but they have nine career saves combined.

After the Nationals traded Matt Capps to the Minnesota Twins last year for catching prospect Wilson Ramos, Storen, the 10th pick of the 2009 draft, handled the majority of save situations. He saved five games in seven opportunities with a 3.58 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 55 1/3 total innings.

Both Burnett and Clippard could also be internal candidates to close, but the Nationals would prefer to add a veteran to the back end of their bullpen. They also must replace Joel Peralta, whom the Nationals non-tendered and will not likely resign.

Adding a closer would have a potential side benefit. The Nationals could add a veteran closer and then trade him midseason as a way to ease Storen in the role they envisioned for him when the drafted him. The Nationals struck gold last year by signing Capps for $3.5 million, then flipping him for Ramos, 23, who will likely begin the season in a platoon behind home plate.

If the Nationals can add another quality arm to their bullpen, they would be strengthening a strength. Despite leading the majors with a staggering 545 2/3 innings, the Nationals' bullpen had a 3.33 ERA, tied for fourth best in the majors. If they can improve their bullpen, it would also lessen the pressure to sign a top-shelf starting pitcher, because it would allow Manager Jim Riggleman to go to his relievers early in games, as he often did in 2009.

The Nationals are shopping left fielder Josh Willingham, and they could use him to land relief help in return. Many in the baseball industry expect Willingham to be traded this offseason, perhaps before the end of the week. Willingham has one year remaining before his first shot at free agency, and General Manager Mike Rizzo has said the Nationals are not considering signing him to an extension.

By Adam Kilgore  | December 6, 2010; 12:30 PM ET
 
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Next: Cliff Lee's agent: Nationals 'not eliminated by any means' [UPDATED]

Comments

Do the Nats have any interest in bringing back Peralta?

I'm still confused as to why he was non-tendered...

Posted by: comish4lif | December 6, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

C'mon down Bobby Jenks

Posted by: SCNatsFan | December 6, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Peralta wanted a 2 year deal....the Nats didn't wanted to go that long on a contract for a guy in his mid 30s.

Posted by: C-way | December 6, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

"Peralta wanted a 2 year deal....the Nats didn't wanted to go that long on a contract for a guy in his mid 30s."

It doesn't matter what Peralta wanted. He was still under the Nats' control, and if they were unable to agree on a one-year deal with him, they would have ended up going to arbitration. And the result of arbitration would have been a one-year deal.

As comish indicated, there still hasn't been a coherent explanation offered as to why the Nats didn't tender him a contract.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | December 6, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

SC,

I agree Jenks is the ideal candidate. He is not reclamation, and could be traded mid-season. The key would be the offer; it has to be tradable and good for Jenks. The other option is go back to the Twinkies and get Rauch.

Posted by: hansenjo | December 6, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

hansenjo, you look how Rauch just fell apart near the end with us and in AZ, then you read about all the stuff he had going outside of the park and you root for the guy... love to have him back

Posted by: SCNatsFan | December 6, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Werth's contract makes it even more puzzling that the Nats wouldn't spend maybe an extra $2 million to keep Peralta. If they had, then there wouldn't be talk about swapping Hammer for a reliever/closer.

I'm for throwing Storen in there in the 9th right now, or Burnett, depending on the matchups. If it looks like Storen can't handle it, and the Nats actually are good enough to need a dependable closer, a trade can be made in May.

I have to concede that with Werth signed, the 1B need is for a left-handed bat, so my hope for signing D. Lee is out.

Posted by: nats24 | December 6, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

This team will not fail because Peralta isn't here. True, the reasons they give are curious, but there is just as likely a chance he reverts to stinking then having another stellar year.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | December 6, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

The 2 year deal request to Peralta is not relevant.

If the Nats tendered him an arbitration offer last week (and thus committed to arbitration), that would give Peralta and the Nats have until mid-January to negotiate. If they cannot decide on a dollar amount, they each submit a number to an arbitrator. They make their cases, and the abritrator picks one number or the other.

If the Nats didn't want to commit to a 2 year deal, Peralta had no leverage to make that happen. I cannot see how he would have made much more than say $1.2M? And likey would have taken under $1M.

Posted by: comish4lif | December 6, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

There also hasn't been a coherent explanation offered as to why Kevin thinks every single minor personnel move merits an explanation at all, much less a coherent one.

Posted by: FeelWood | December 6, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Landing a legit Closer in this market is unusually easy and the Nats should pull the trigger.

I am still just awe-struck at the money the nats threw at Werth. Just amazing.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 6, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Who is Kevin?

Posted by: comish4lif | December 6, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

They non tendered Peralta because with the season he had last year arbitration would get a fairly healthy raise and the team's thinking is that with his age, last year was an aberation.

Posted by: paulhealey | December 6, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Not sure why Peralta non-tender is an issue for anyone. 6th inning relievers are fairly easy to find.

And as noted above the market is heavy in relievers this year. If they pick one up, then someone from last year's staff is not going to make the team.

Kilgore suggests Willingham might be moved for a reliever. That would be suprising to me. Not that there are not some relievers out there that are worth Willingham, but there are so many relievers in free agency that it seems odd to waste a bullet on one in trade.

I'm still waiting on a starter - Webb is a solid candidate and of course Wang is still dangling out there....

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 6, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I think it is a good idea to sign a closer and then shop him at the trade deadline, I do not believe anyone on the staff now is capable of being a closer everytime we need one and I think bullpen by committee is not good.

Jenks would be a nice addition as would Soriano, Fuentes, or Francisco.

Posted by: markfd | December 6, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Saw a post the Dodgers are asking for Desmond and Zimmermann for Loney. That's a proposal I'd expect to see on a Dodgers message board not from their GM

Posted by: SCNatsFan | December 6, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I think the Twins will resign Rauch, for what it's worth.

On a side note, can any of our research-minded friends tell me how many relief innings were pitched by the teams with bullpen ERAs less than Washington? I'd love to see how our 545 innings compares.

Seriously, with 2010's rotation, how many more games would Washington have lost with 2009's bullpen?

Posted by: JohninMpls | December 6, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

@PaulHealey - how much do you think Peralta made last year - and what do you think he would have won in arbitration?

Because I'm thinking, I'd rather have a strikeout guy like Peralta with some level of success than an unknown subject. Anyone the Nats bring in for the bullpen is making the league minimum, if they bring in an established arm, great, but that erases any potential savings. I don't think Peralta could have gotten more than $800K in arbitration (or $1.2M on the high end as stated before), I just don't see the risk to keeping Peralta...

Posted by: comish4lif | December 6, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

@Johnin,

Don't know if you're still here, but FWIW:

http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/team/_/stat/pitching/split/128

(Note that this indicates the Nats had a slightly higher bullpen ERA than Kilgore mentions. Not sure what explains that, but the chart shows the IP of the teams above the Nats nonetheless.)

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | December 6, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

comish, FeelWood/ABM/nunof thinks that my name is Kevin. There's a guy named Kevin Reiss who has a blog and tweets about the Nats a lot. I'm not him.

As I've explained before, I can't use my real name for professional reasons. Kevin Reiss doesn't pull any punches when he's commenting in his own name, so it's unclear why ABM thinks he would post on this and other blogs under a pseudonym. In any case, we now return you to our regularly-scheduled programming...go Nats!

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | December 6, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

The Werth signing should put to rest the notion that the Lerners won't spend money. We'll just have to see if they spent it wisely.

Posted by: rufus_t_firefly | December 6, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Why don't we go after Rich Harden as a closer? The guy gets tired after 4 innings because he goes to 3-2 on everyone. Sounds like perfect relief pitcher.

Posted by: mc2c | December 6, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

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