NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. - The Winter Meetings officially ended around 9:30 a.m. when the always-dramatic Rule 5 Draft came to a close, leading to a mass exodus of baseball executives from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center and a long line waiting for cabs to Reagan National Airport.
But the end of the Winter Meetings is by no means the end of the hot stove league, so the Nationals aren’t exactly closing up shop and refusing to pick up the phone for the next two months.
They still have one very significant hole to fill on their 2017 roster - a closer - and they are still working on addressing that issue on a number of fronts even as the meetings wrap up.
The Nationals did meet with representatives for Kenley Jansen this week, according to sources familiar with those discussions. It’s unclear if they’re willing to make the kind of financial commitment the Marlins reportedly have offered - five years, more than $80 million - but they are nonetheless in the mix for the 29-year-old All-Star. So are the Dodgers, who have employed Jansen the last 12 years and did not expect to find themselves in this kind of desperate scenario.
There’s no doubt Jansen has been one of the premier closers in the game over the last five seasons. Since 2012, he owns a 2.22 ERA, 180 saves, an 0.86 WHIP (second-best among all major league relievers in that timeframe) and 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings (fifth-best in that span).
But as we’ve seen in plenty of cases over the years, past success as a closer doesn’t always guarantee future success as a closer, and these guys can fall off the cliff rather quickly when it happens. Are the Nationals willing to take a five-year, $80 million chance that Jansen bucks the trend? Keep in mind, they weren’t willing to top the Giants’ four-year, $62 million offer for Mark Melancon.
Even if they are willing to do it for Jansen, do the Nationals have the money? Their opening day payroll at this moment, after the Adam Eaton trade, is somewhere in the neighborhood of $153 million. There are a couple of places they could trim that number down, especially if they can find a trade partner for Danny Espinosa, but they still face a challenge if they want to keep their total commitment to $160 million, give or take.
So the trade market remains a very viable alternative for the Nationals when seeking their much-coveted closer. And there remain multiple options out there.
They’ve discussed Alex Colome with the Rays, as mentioned earlier this morning. They’ve also discussed David Robertson with the White Sox, according to a source familiar with the discussions.
Colome, who had a 1.91 ERA and 37 saves this season, is under team control for four more years, so he’s going to command a significant return in a trade.
Robertson, who has a 3.32 ERA and 110 saves over the last three seasons, is already signed for two more seasons at a total of $25 million. He’s not as dominant as Jansen or Colome, but he won’t cost as much (in dollars or players). The White Sox, as has been obvious to everyone here this week, are in full-scale rebuilding mode. They could use a young catcher, and given the Nationals’ apparent commitment to Derek Norris as a strong bounceback candidate, perhaps Pedro Severino is now available as a trade chip.