As the market for lefty relievers turns

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Yup, another entry on left-handed relievers.

This is what happens when the team you cover has addressed pretty much every other area of its roster. You write entry after entry about the search for a left-handed reliever.

One of the Nationals’ top targets when it came to left-handed relief, Eric O’Flaherty, could be close to coming off the market. And it certainly appears that he won’t be landing with the Nats.

Multiple outlets have reported that there’s a good chance that O’Flaherty, who is coming off Tommy John surgery and won’t be ready to pitch until early- to mid-May, will end up re-signing with the Braves, with whom he has spent the last five seasons.

The Nationals view O’Flaherty as an intriguing bullpen option because of his high talent level, dominance against left-handed hitters and the fact that he could probably be had for a relatively modest price, given his injury situation. If he joined the Nats and was able to come back healthy, he would have given Matt Williams quite a late-inning threat to go along with Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen.

There are other free agent options still available that the Nats are considering, of course, including J.P. Howell, Scott Downs and Boone Logan. But a couple of intriguing trade targets are being considered, as well.

The Nats have expressed interest in the Pirates’ Justin Wilson and the Athletics’ Jerry Blevins, a source confirmed, adding to the list of possibilities that we can consider.

Wilson, 26, made his big league debut two seasons ago and had a dominant 2012, posting a 2.08 ERA and 1.059 WHIP in 73 2/3 innings. He needed just 58 games to rack up that many innings of work, demonstrating that he’s a guy capable of pitching to both lefties and righties.

His 2013 splits (lefties hit .200/.266/.235 off him, compared to a .189/.283/.280 slash line by righties) back that up.

Obviously, Wilson won’t come cheap, especially given that he’s under team control through 2018 and isn’t eligible for arbitration for two more years.

Blevins, 30, posted a 3.15 ERA and 1.067 WHIP over 60 innings for the A’s this season. He actually has reverse splits and fares better against right-handers (.190/.267/.314 in 2013) than lefties (.253/.299/.442). But the A’s have a wealth of left-handed options in their bullpen, and Blevins wouldn’t cost the Nats as much as Wilson in terms of prospects or talent being shipped out in a trade.

Blevins is under contract for two more seasons.

Rizzo said earlier today that the Nats like the depth of the lefty reliever market, both when it comes to free agent options and trade targets, and have been laying the groundwork on possible deals over the last couple of days.

“I think progress for the fact that we’ve met with a lot of people,” Rizzo said. “Progress in that sense. We’ve done some investigating, we’ve talked to a lot of people and really laid a good foundation and a groundwork to see what our future moves will be.”

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