The Nationals’ search for left-handed relievers continued on Tuesday, the second day of the winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista, with the team researching prospective players and talking with representatives of free agents. “Really laid a good foundation, ground work to see what our future moves will be,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said.
The Nationals have been interested in J.P. Howell, Scott Downs and Boone Logan. Howell appears to be seeking a bigger contract than the Nationals are willing to give him, so the Nationals next preferred candidates are Downs and Logan. Eric O’Flaherty has drawn interest from the Nationals, too. Even though the Altanta Journal-Constitution reported on Tuesday afternoon that the Braves are deep in talks to re-sign O’Flaherty, a person familiar with the situation said that the left-hander is still “open for business” with other teams.
If the Nationals were to sign were to add a left-handed reliever via free agency or a trade, he would join Xavier Cedeno as the left-handers in the bullpen. Ideally, Manager Matt Williams would like to have two left-handed relievers — a specialist and a long reliever capable of pitching two or three innings. O’Flaherty, who is returning from Tommy John surgery, and Logan was used mainly as a one-inning reliever while Downs was mostly a specialist last season. Howell has the most recent experience tossing multiple innings.
“It’s a question of who’s available, what it costs, or in a trade situation what some other team may want, all of that comes into play,” Williams said. “In a perfect world you’d like a short lefty, short righty. The problem with baseball is it’s not perfect. Those are the wish list things, and we’ll see what we can come up with.”
Rizzo again touted the depth of the free agent and trade markets, along with internal options. The Nationals have considered breaking left-handed prospect Sammy Solis into the majors in the bullpen. Solis is a starter and, if he was in the bullpen, could serve as the lefty longman. If the Nationals acquire a new left-hander, Solis could remain in the minors as depth and Cedeno could stay in the majors.
“Cedeno has earned the opportunity to be the left-on-left guy,” Rizzo said. “He was terrific in the minor leagues last year and in the big leagues, in the short stint he was up there. He’s earned a look and an opportunity. We’ve got depth in that position. Some of our good arms are young and left-handed — Solis and [Matt] Purke. I think we have depth there. You go out and obtain one left-handed reliever, the second one could come — and probably will come — in house.”