Now that the Nationals have landed Jayson Werth, effectively solidifying their outfield and adding an impact bat to the middle of their lineup after Adam Dunn’s departure, they turn their attention to what they’ve said would be the chief pursuit of their offseason all along: improving their pitching staff.
In short order, here’s where that stands:
--The Nationals remain a long shot for Cliff Lee, but they haven’t dropped out of the race. General manager Mike Rizzo said he has met with Lee’s agent, Darek Braunecker, at the Winter Meetings, though he has not talked with the left-hander. Braunecker told a group of reporters that there are a number of teams interested in Lee, and he has suitors beyond the Yankees and Rangers, who have been the most public pursuers of the former Cy Young winner.
--If the Nationals can’t get a starting pitcher, they could turn their attention to another bullpen arm. Manager Jim Riggleman said they’d like to get a reliever who has some experience closing games and could fill a variety of late-inning roles, though the Nationals wouldn’t be after a “classic closer,” adding, “Those guys are just not going to show up.” The Nationals want Drew Storen to grow into that role, and are planning to give him every chance to take it. But they also want to have options beyond Storen.
--They could still land a pitcher via a trade, and that would likely mean giving up shortstop Ian Desmond or second baseman Danny Espinosa. Rizzo understands that, and hinted the Nationals have enough depth in the organization to sustain losing one of those players. Infielder Stephen Lombardozzi, who finished the year at Double-A Harrisburg and played in the Arizona Fall League, could be big league ready sometime this year, and the Nationals have picked a handful of middle infielders high in the last two drafts with the idea of stocking those positions. In an on-camera interview with MASNSports.com, Rizzo mentioned the Nationals’ depth in the middle infield and at catcher as two of their best trading chips. He also told reporters he can’t see going into the year with three catchers, which means Jesus Flores or Wilson Ramos might be available in a trade.