Thoughts on a newsy week for the Nationals

After more than six weeks of radio silence out of South Capitol Street, you had to figure the Nationals were due to make some news at long last. Sure enough, it merely required your humble beat writer going on vacation last week for it to happen.

You know the facts at this point - thanks to Pete Kerzel and Byron Kerr for covering things in my stead - but I didn't want to return to work and just gloss over the transactions altogether. So here are some thoughts on the three notable news items that broke last week, before we move on to other matters (including the highly anticipated countdown to spring training that has almost arrived).

* Nats re-sign Stephen Drew: Everybody had been nervously waiting all winter for this one, wondering if the Nationals would be able to convince Drew to return for a second season on the bench in D.C., or whether the veteran infielder would be enticed by an opportunity for more playing time elsewhere. Well, they were able to convince him to come back, and that's no insignificant development for this team.

How significant can a guy who had only 165 plate appearances last season be? A lot more than you might realize.

It's not just the fact Drew was really productive in his limited opportunities at the plate. (After a slow start, he hit .308/.391/.617 over his final 51 games.) It's the fact he provides some much needed insurance for several key regulars in the Nationals lineup.

If anybody among the starting infield gets hurt, Drew is the guy who stands to take over. If Ryan Zimmerman bottoms out and Dusty Baker is forced to make a move, Drew becomes the starting second baseman with Daniel Murphy shifting to first base. If Trea Turner proves to be less adept at shortstop than expected, Drew is there to assume the position while Turner moves to another spot. If Murphy's upper leg injury carries over from last fall, Drew becomes the man. If Anthony Rendon busts up his knee diving for a ball in spring training, Drew might well be the new third baseman.

Yes, the Nationals could have tried to cover all those areas with a combination of other players. But with Drew, they're covered across the board. This is a career starting infielder who has now learned how to adapt to a reserve role. And the Nats couldn't be more fortunate to retain his services for another season.

* Nats sign Vance Worley: It's a minor league contract with an invitation to big league camp, so Worley is assured of nothing. But barring bad health or somebody else emerging this spring in West Palm Beach, it sure seems like the Nationals are planning for the 29-year-old right-hander to be the long man in their bullpen and emergency starter.

Worley is cut from the same cloth as Yusmeiro Petit. He has been a starter. He has been a reliever. He takes the ball whenever he's needed, whether after a week of no action or 48 hours after tossing multiple innings.

Worley's 3.53 ERA in 35 games with the Orioles last season was solid. His peripheral stats - 1.373 WHIP, 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings, 3.6 walks per nine innings - are less impressive.

But the fact so many Baltimore fans were upset by the news their beloved "Vanimal" had signed with Washington last week should tell you something, as well.

He could prove to be a valuable member of the Nationals pitching staff this year.

* Rockies sign Greg Holland: Yet another experienced closer signed somewhere else, a development the Nationals have become quite used to this winter. But this may not be such a downer in the end, when you consider the contract Holland got from the Rockies.

In addition to $7 million guaranteed this season, Holland can earn up to $14 million total if he winds up as Colorado's closer for a significant chunk of time. And, according to FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman, the deal also includes a vesting player option that would guarantee Holland $15 million in 2018 if he pitches in 50 games or closes 30 games this season.

That's not chump change, especially for a guy who hasn't appeared in a major league game in 500 days.

Kelley-Throws-Red-Sidebar.jpgNo, this doesn't do anything to help resolve the Nationals need for a closer. But if that's the price it required to sign Holland, I don't think Mike Rizzo is kicking himself right now.

More and more, the stars are aligning for either Shawn Kelley or Blake Treinen to open the season as the Nationals closer, with Koda Glover getting an opportunity to set them up and perhaps take over the ninth inning at some point. It's not a perfect (or even preferred) scenario, but I'll repeat a stat I mentioned weeks ago: Each of the last six World Series champions ended its season with a different closer than the one who began the season.

If the Nats can't find their guy from within, they'll have another opportunity to acquire one this summer.

Closer or not, Nationals do need more bullpen help
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