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Heyward just latest free agent Nats fall short with. Now what?


Heyward just latest free agent Nats fall short with. Now what?

Despite the accruement of relief pitchers as they rework their bullpen, a common theme for the Nationals this offseason has been them missing out on marquee free agents. They show interest, they get close, but they end up falling short with contract offers and watch their targets sign away with other teams.

This has happened with Ben Zobrist, Darren O'Day and now Jason Heyward. And, if Mike Leake signs elsewhere, he will fall in the same category.

So, what to make of this trend? The Nationals, for one, are being active in free agency, just as they have in years past. And them losing out after being reported as finalists is nothing new either. That has happened with plenty of players from Mark Teixeira to Prince Fielder. It happens to many teams.

But let's look at the targets themselves and see what we can deduce. The O'Day one is obvious. They are looking for bullpen help and, at least for a little while, were keen on the biggest name out there. O'Day entered free agency after four excellent seasons in Baltimore, only to go back to the O's for a four-year deal. The Nationals ultimately would not meet the financial demands of the 33-year-old pitcher.

Getting that close to O'Day, however, shows how serious the Nats are in upgrading - or at least changing - the back-end of their bullpen. If O'Day were to have signed with Washington, he wouldn't have done so to pitch in the middle innings. That further backs their goal of trading Jonathan Papelbon and/or Drew Storen.

In the cases of Zobrist and Heyward, the Nationals are clearly looking for both outfield depth and a left-handed bat. Both players bat lefty and play outfield, though Zobrist also plays second base. Their interest in him, plus the trade of Yunel Escobar, could mean they are looking to upgrade at second, despite the fact Danny Espinosa is still on the roster.

The Leake news was the most concrete indication so far that the Nats are serious about making changes to their starting rotation. Currently that group includes Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Joe Ross and Tanner Roark. But, as their pursuit of Leake further shows, they are not exactly content with the current crop.

Now that the Nats have in some ways shown their cards, how can they fulfill the objectives they have identified? 

As for left-handed bats that play second base, they could turn to Daniel Murphy, Kelly Johnson or Stephen Drew, though Drew has really struggled over the last two years. Right-handed batters at the position who are free agents include Howie Kendrick and Sean Rodriguez.

If outfield depth is really what they are aiming for, the best left-handed or switch-hitting options remaining are Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler (switch). A reunion with Denard Span would also solve that problem.

Johnny Cueto and Yovani Gallardo headline the available starting pitchers in free agency, but both will command large contracts, particularly Cueto. The Nats may be best off acquiring a new starter via trade as they did for Gio before the 2012 season and Doug Fister before 2014. As we have noted in recent weeks, Tyson Ross of the Padres could be a fit with two years remaining on his contract. Alex Cobb of the Rays is also under team control through 2017, though Tampa has given no indication they will trade him this winter.

Nationals fans may be disappointed in seeing their team fall short on several big name free agents this offseason. But a hidden benefit in the process is learning exactly what the Nats are looking to accomplish this winter.

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Former Nats manager Jim Riggleman named interim manager of Reds

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Former Nats manager Jim Riggleman named interim manager of Reds

Remember Jim Riggleman, the infamous Nats manager that resigned from the position back in 2011 after a win against the Seattle Mariners? Well he's back in a managerial position.

Bryan Price was fired as manager of the Cinncinati Reds Thursday, after the team started the 2018 season 3-15. Riggleman, who spent four seasons as their bench coach, was named the interim manager to replace Price.

Riggleman was promoted to interim manager of the Nats in July of 2009, after Manny Acta was let go midseason. He stayed on as manager for 2010 and 2011, and he then resigned from the team on June 23, 2011 after a win agaisnt the Seattle Mariners. He had lead the team to a win in 11 of their last 12 games prior to stepping away.

The reason behind the dramatic exit was due to the organization not yet picking up his 2012 contract option. He had reportedly requested a conversation with the front office about his future with the organization, and was upset after they declined. At 58 years-old, he felt he deserved more respect.

He's been with the Reds organization since 2012, and has spent time managing the Padres, Cubs and Mariners, in addition to the Nationals. His career winning pct. with each team has been below-.500.


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Nationals fall after Mets score 9 runs in 8th inning

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Nationals fall after Mets score 9 runs in 8th inning

NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes launched a grand slam during a nine-run outburst in the eighth inning that rallied the New York Mets past the Washington Nationals 11-5 on Wednesday night, preventing a three-game sweep.

Todd Frazier tied it at 4 with a two-run single and pinch-hitter Juan Lagares put New York ahead for the first time with a two-run double off ineffective setup man Ryan Madson (0-2).

Shut down by Tanner Roark for seven innings, the first-place Mets broke loose in the eighth and improved to 13-4 with a stirring victory against their NL East rivals.

Ryan Zimmerman homered twice, tripled and drove in four runs for the Nationals, who pulled off their own big comeback in the eighth inning of the series opener.

Two nights later, New York returned the favor.

Roark limited the Mets to two hits and left leading 4-2. Michael Conforto, Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera singled off Madson to load the bases with nobody out in the eighth. Jay Bruce fouled out before Frazier smacked a two-run single up the middle and advanced to second on the throw home.

After an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez loaded the bases again, pinch-hitter Wilmer Flores struck out. Lagares then lined a two-run double the other way, just inside the right-field line at the outer edge of the infield grass, to put the Mets up 6-4.

Sammy Solis walked Amed Rosario and Conforto to force in a run. Cespedes connected for his sixth career slam -- the third by the Mets already this season -- off A.J. Cole, sending fans into a frenzy.

Both of Cespedes' hits in the inning came on 0-2 pitches.

AJ Ramos (1-1) worked a perfect inning for his first win with the Mets since being acquired from Miami last July.

Howie Kendrick reached on an infield single for Washington in the first and Bryce Harper drew his 24th walk, most in the majors. Zimmerman, batting .121 at that point and struggling to make opponents pay for bypassing Harper, came through with a drive to left-center off Steven Matz for his second home run of the season.

Matz steadied himself after a 33-pitch first inning and retired his final 10 batters. He was pulled for a pinch hitter in the fourth after throwing 74 pitches.

Cabrera doubled to open the fourth and scored on Gonzalez's single. Zimmerman had a chance to start an inning-ending double play, but his throwing error from first base allowed another run to score on Jose Lobaton's RBI grounder as the Mets cut it to 3-2.

After Mets pitchers retired 16 in a row, Zimmerman's leadoff triple in the seventh got past a diving Bruce in right field, and Moises Sierra followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.

Zimmerman also hit a solo homer in the ninth.