For a team that isn’t overhauling its roster all that much, it’s kind of interesting that the Nationals have lost all three left-handed relievers that were on their 2012 roster prior to the 25-man limit expanding in September.
Sean Burnett has headed out west to join the Angels for a reported $8 million over two years, with a vesting option worth $4.5 million for 2015.
Tom Gorzelanny, who was non-tendered by the Nats last month, signed a two-year, $5.7 million deal with the Brewers.
And Michael Gonzalez has reportedly inked a one-year deal with Milwaukee that will pay him $2.25 million plus incentives.
There’s no doubt that the Nationals have lost a few quality left-handed relievers, but while the number of lefties on the free agent market is shrinking, there’s no reason for Nats fans to panic about the state of the bullpen just yet.
First of all, let’s remember that Gonzalez was signed by the Nats in May. He joined the organization on a minor league deal, didn’t make his first big league appearance until early June and ended up being a significant contributor during the Nationals’ playoff run.
If the Nats don’t have another lefty in their bullpen by the start of spring training, keep that move in mind. There are ways to make roster improvements not just into March, but even after the regular season is under way.
As I mentioned yesterday, the Nats have a few right-handed relievers who have had success against left-handed hitters in their career. While having just one southpaw in the ‘pen might not be ideal, Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen and Ryan Mattheus could be called on to face a lefty if need be.
J.P. Howell remains the Nationals’ top relief target at this point, and he would provide a left-handed option for the late innings, one who can get both lefties and righties out.
But even if Howell chooses to sign elsewhere, the Nats can add a quality left-hander another way - through a trade.
Should Adam LaRoche end up re-signing with the Nationals, Michael Morse will be dangled as trade bait. One would imagine a number of teams would be interested, and with the Nationals having no clear needs at the major league level other than bullpen help, general manager Mike Rizzo could insist that any team wanting to acquire Morse make an offer that includes a left-handed reliever.
The Orioles strike me as one team that could be a good match, given their need for a middle-of-the-order bat and Morse’s ability to play left field, first base or DH. Baltimore’s roster is stocked with left-handed relief types (Brian Matusz, Troy Patton and Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland are currently on the 40-man), giving Rizzo and Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette some options in negotiations.
The idea of having Duke and Bray as the Nationals’ only lefty relievers might not excite many fans, but just because they’re the team’s only options on the roster now doesn’t mean that will be the case come September.