NASHVILLE — Here’s the biggest dilemma facing the Nationals at the Winter Meetings, which officially began this morning: They desperately need to acquire quality, late-inning relievers while at the same time they desperately need to deal away a couple of quality, late-inning relievers.
Does this meet the definition of irony?
Mike Rizzo and Co. are juggling a bunch of different balls in the air right now. They’re trying to gauge what interest there could be in Drew Storen and Jonathan Papelbon, fully recognizing the challenges involved in moving either disgruntled closer. They’re also talking to just about every available late-inning reliever, both via free agency and trade.
So far, they’ve come up short on both ends. There should be some legitimate interest in Storen, though it’s tough to say how much the Nationals can reasonably expect to receive in exchange for a reliever entering his walk year and due to earn close to $9 million in 2016 via arbitration. It’s hard to imagine there’s much of any interest, however, in Papelbon, who in addition to making $11 million in 2016 comes with all sorts of baggage, the latest being the grievance he reportedly has filed against the Nats for withholding his pay during their team-imposed 4-game suspension at season’s end.
As far as the search for new relievers goes, the challenge is only getting tougher by the hour. Darren O’Day’s 4-yeal deal with the Orioles isn’t official yet, but it’s expected to be finalized soon. Ryan Madson signed a 3-year deal with the Athletics. Joakim Soria just signed a 3-year deal with the Royals.
And on the trade front, the big shoe just dropped this morning: The Reds are sending Aroldis Chapman to the Dodgers, according to FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal. The Nationals have long been interested in Chapman, including at the July trade deadline, but could not come up with a package of prospects to meet Cincinnati’s demands.
So where exactly does that leave the Nats at this point? It’s not a pretty picture.
The best remaining available free-agent relievers include old pal Tyler Clippard, veteran right-hander Mark Lowe and lefties Tony Sipp and Antonio Bastardo. No closers in that bunch (with all due respect to Clippard).
There are a few remaining trade candidates. Mark Melancon of the Pirates would be intriguing, though he’s entering his walk year. The Rays’ Brad Boxberger (who saved 41 games this season) may be available, and he has four years of control remaining. There are rumblings that the Yankees could be willing to move Andrew Miller (who is signed for three more years and $27 million). And perhaps Kenley Jansen (suddenly in position to get “Storen-ed” with today’s acquisition of Chapman) could force the Dodgers to trade him.
None of those names, of course, are sure things or easily acquired. And so the Nationals find themselves exactly where they were at season’s end: They desperately want to acquire quality, late-inning relievers while at the same time desperately wanting to trade away a couple of quality, late-inning relievers.