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Can the Nationals remake their entire bullpen?


Can the Nationals remake their entire bullpen?

Scroll through the Nationals' 2015 pitching register and then answer this question: Which relievers on that list are locks to make the 2016 Opening Day roster?

Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen might return, but both right-handers are going to be the subject of plenty of trade speculation over the next several weeks after seeing their respective seasons crater in September.

Craig Stammen is now a free agent after getting non-tendered late Wednesday night. Matt Thornton and Casey Janssen became free agents last month.

Aaron Barrett won't make it back from Tommy John surgery until August or September. Matt Grace, Rafael Martin and Sammy Solis were far too erratic during their rookie seasons to merit a guaranteed job.

Really, the only two guys you'd feel comfortable penciling in right now are Felipe Rivero and Blake Treinen. And neither has exactly proven himself a quality big-league reliever over more than a couple of months.

So where does that leave Mike Rizzo as next week's Winter Meetings loom and the Hot Stove League kicks into high gear? Is it possible for a team to remake its entire bullpen in one offseason?

Possible? Maybe. Likely? Probably not.

The Nationals very well may sign multiple free agents (Darren O'Day continues to reside atop their wish list) and very well may acquire another reliever or two via trade (Aroldis Chapman remains there for the taking, if anybody's willing to give up a whole lot in return). But come April, they're going to have to take the field with at least a few holdovers or other homegrown relievers on their staff.

You could do worse than starting with Rivero. The left-hander was a revelation during his rookie campaign, flashing an upper-90s fastball by season's end and displaying impressive poise given his lack of experience. He might well be closer material some day, though for now the Nationals figure to use him as their top lefty setup man.

Treinen isn't nearly as polished as Rivero, but the right-hander's stuff might be more impressive. Few pitchers in the sport can claim a 98-mph sinker with as much movement as he produces, even if his command of that pitch betrays him too often. Treinen needs to figure out how to be more effective against left-handed hitters (who torched him to the tune of a .934 OPS this season) but at worst he looks like a competent middle man in a major-league bullpen.

Beyond that ... well, the Nationals have some work to do. If they really do part ways with both Papelbon and Storen, they'll need a new closer (not to mention a new eighth-inning guy). That's not a position any GM wants to find himself in, so take Rizzo at least somewhat seriously when he suggests he'll only move Paplebon and/or Storen if somebody makes him a "real baseball offer."

Even if they keep both late-inning right-handers, the Nationals still will have several bullpen holes to fill. They'll need another lefty to go along with Rivero. And they'll need somebody who can at least attempt to fill Stammen's role as the jack of all trades.

That's not an easy fix. There are only so many pitchers out there who can transition seamlessly from long man to setup man to emergency closer like Stammen did from 2012-14. Obviously, the Nationals weren't convinced he can recapture that form after tearing his flexor tendon in April and missing the rest of the season, or else they would have tendered him a contract before Wednesday night's deadline. But good luck finding somebody to fill that void. They never did find anybody this season.

Consider it just one of several challenges facing the Nationals this winter as they attempt to overhaul a vital part of their roster that played a major role in their disappointing 2015 season.

MORE NATIONALS: Report: Nationals plan to shop Escobar at Winter Meetings

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Its Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

Its Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.


Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.


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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm