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Is O'Day worth the price tag to the Nationals?

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Is O'Day worth the price tag to the Nationals?

There's no question about the Nationals' most-pressing need this winter: bullpen help. And there's no question about the best-available reliever on the free-agent market: Darren O'Day.

So it shouldn't come as much surprise that the Nationals have significant interest in O'Day. (ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick went so far Sunday as to say the Nats have joined the Dodgers at the "top of the Darren O'Day pack.")

And, according to a source familiar with O'Day's thinking, the veteran right-hander has mutual interest in the Nationals, owing in part to the fact his wife (Elizabeth Prann) is a Washington-based reporter for Fox News Channel. That fact, of course, also makes Baltimore an attractive place for O'Day to stay, but the Orioles to date have offered no evidence they are making a serious attempt to re-sign him.

The real question, though, is whether the Nationals are willing to make the kind of commitment it's going to take to land the best reliever on the market. O'Day is expected to receive at least a 3-year deal, with many believing he'll ultimately command a 4-year contract worth anywhere from $28 million to $36 million.

That's a hefty price, and not only in dollars. A 4-year commitment to any reliever, let alone one who just turned 33, is a risky proposition, and not the kind of thing the Nats have been willing to do in the past.

Yes, they've been willing to spend top dollar on experienced closers — Rafael Soriano got $14 million a year, Jonathan Papelbon is scheduled to make $11 million next year — but neither was acquired with more than two seasons of control guaranteed. Are the Nationals suddenly going to double that commitment in years, especially for a setup man?

They just might. Relievers are notoriously a fickle bunch, with few able to maintain a high level of consistency over multiple years. But O'Day might be one who breaks that mold.

In each of his four seasons with the Orioles, O'Day has made at least 60 appearances with an ERA under 2.30 and a WHIP of 1.00 or lower. He's the only reliever in baseball to do that. And only two others (Craig Kimbrel and Mark Melancon) have done it three times in those four seasons.

An O'Day acquisition would probably increase speculation that the Nationals are going to trade either Papelbon or Drew Storen (or both). Such a move certainly would give Mike Rizzo the flexibility to deal at least one of the other right-handers, even if he wouldn't get full value at this point.

But it wouldn't necessarily force Rizzo's hand. As we've seen in the past, he's perfectly comfortable loading up at one position and trying to assemble one of the deepest talent pools in baseball. It's what he did last winter with his rotation. And it's what he did in 2013-14 with a bullpen that featured Soriano, Storen and Tyler Clippard.

There's certainly some evidence to suggest a dominant bullpen trio can make a huge difference over the course of a season and especially in October — hello, world champion Kansas City Royals — so perhaps the idea of a Storen-O'Day-Papelbon triumvirate is appealing to Rizzo.

If they go that route, though, the Nationals will be spending a whole lot of money on their bullpen. Those three relievers figure to sport a combined 2016 salary in the range of $28 million. That's not a traditional allocation of financial resources.

Then again, consider what this team's biggest problem area was this season, and what a difference a dominant 7-8-9 bullpen combo might have made in the NL East race.

If the Nationals are determined to correct that flaw, O'Day might just be the best available piece, even if the price tag makes them just a bit queasy.

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With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

WASHINGTON  -- The Washington Nationals say they have agreed to a one-year deal with 40-year-old reliever Joaquin Benoit.

The team announced the move Wednesday, along with placing pitcher Joe Ross on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in July.

The Nationals didn't release terms of the agreement, though a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Monday that it was for $1 million.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal wasn't official at the time.

MORE NATIONALS: FULL 2018 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

Benoit is a right-hander who first reached the big leagues in 2001. 

He has played for eight teams, finishing last year with Pittsburgh.

He has 764 career appearances, going 58-49 with a 3.83 ERA and 53 saves.

RELATED: 2018 MLB BETTING ODDS

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

It's 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.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

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.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE