With pitchers and catcher reporting to spring training in Viera, Fla., in under three weeks, Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said he is content with the team’s roster and doesn’t anticipate making any more substantial changes. And although Rizzo said the team was interested in veteran free agent closer Grant Balfour, who agreed to a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, the Nationals aren’t necessarily trying to add to their bullpen.
“We like the club that we have right now but we’re always open to add to the roster if it benefits us,” Rizzo said at NatsFest on Saturday. “I wouldn’t say that we’re actively looking to add anybody but we’re certainly not going to turn out back if opportunity knocks. If we can get a value, we’ll certainly look into it. … We’re not making a whole lot of phone calls.”
Balfour agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal with the Rays, and the Nationals’ offer was similar. “We thought there was a value there,” Rizzo said. “I think that sleeping in his own bed and being near to his home overrode what we were trying to give him.”
With Rafael Soriano, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard as the foundation of the back of the bullpen, Rizzo said he is “very comfortable” with the composition of the relief corps. In addition to those three, Jerry Blevins, Xavier Cedeno, Craig Stammen, Ryan Mattheus and Tanner Roark, among others, are also candidates for bullpen roles.
“We like our bullpen,” Rizzo said. “We like our core players. We certainly like the construction of this roster. We feel we filled some soft spots that we had on our roster last year and I think we’re an improved version of the 2013 team.”
That includes the back-up catcher position, which Rizzo again reiterated will likely be filled from within the organization.
“We like the pack of guys that are going to compete for it: [Jhonatan] Solano, [Sandy] Leon, Chris Snyder,” Rizzo said. “We feel that they are very, very capable backups and with so many teams in the big leagues looking for a good catcher we feel that we have a great catcher in Wilson Ramos and capable backups to go behind him.”
Of the remaining offseason matters, Rizzo said he is in contact with the agents of Doug Fister and Clippard and is optimistic the Nationals can avoid an arbitration hearing with both. Rizzo said the conversations with both camps has been strictly limited to one-year deals and not any extensions longer than that. Fister and Clippard are both eligible again for arbitration in 2015 for a final time before becoming free agents.
Fister did not appear overly concerned about arbitration. “I’m sure there’s going to be something we’ll be fine with,” he said.
Clippard wouldn’t say if he thought he could avoid the arbitration hearing with the Nationals. “I don’t know,” he said. “We’ll see how it all plays out.”
When asked about any ongoing talks with the representatives of Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond about longer-term deals since striking two-years with both, Rizzo acknowledged discussions. He said he would be open to carrying the conversation into the season, if needed.
“We like all those players,” he said. “We scouted them, signed them, developed them, and now they’re performing at the big leagues for us. We’d like to keep them. But it’s gotta make sense for the ball club and the player.”