Washington Nationals News: Team Continues To Weigh Options For Closer Role

Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo needs to fill the closer role.

The Washington Nationals were able to accomplish one of their two goals at the Winter Meetings last week and although the move to acquire Adam Eaton from the Chicago White Sox received mixed reactions because of the price they paid, they were still able to upgrade in the outfield. Their next move is to acquire a closer with the departure of Mark Melancon to the San Francisco Giants as he signed a four-year, $62 million deal last week. Mike Rizzo is still looking at some options and that includes the last free agent from the "Big three" closers, Kenley Jansen. 

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Rizzo expressed he was uncomfortable signing Aroldis Chapman or Jansen because of the money they want, but they were a part of the mix for Jansen, as of Thursday, once Chapman signed with the New York Yankees.

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On Wednesday, Jon Morosi of Fox Sports reported the team was in contact with the Tampa Bay Rays about Alex Colome, but it might cost them and the Nationals are a bit thin on prospects after the Eaton trade. Colome, 27 and will turn 28 at the end of December, had a breakout year for the Rays. In 56 and 2/3 innings, he posted a 1.91 ERA with 11.3 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 47.1 percent ground-ball rate with 37 saves. He hasn't reached salary arbitration yet and is controlled for another four years before he’s eligible for free agency.

Another option via trade is David Robertson of the White Sox. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported during the Winter Meetings that the Nationals tried to include Robertson in the Eaton trade, but the White Sox refused and preferred to deal him separately.

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Robertson isn't as dominant as Jansen or Colome, but the cost for him shouldn't be expensive, in terms of trading players. He's posted a 3.32 ERA and saved 110 games over the past three seasons. Robertson remains under contract for two more years and is owed $25 million. The White Sox need a catcher and with the recent re-acquisition of Derek Norris, who the Nationals traded in 2011 to the Oakland Athletics for Gio Gonzalez, it's possible they can use Pedro Severino as a trade chip. 

If the Nationals want to stay away from the trade market, they can also look at free agents Neftali Feliz, Greg Holland and Sergio Romo as cheaper options. The Marlins are the only known team to be interested in Feliz, if they don't acquire Jansen. Feliz came off a good year with the Pittsburgh Pirates, posting a 3.52 ERA, with a 10.2 strikeout and 3.5 walk rate per nine innings and has closing experience. Holland, who is coming off Tommy John Surgery, met with teams at the Winter Meetings after having a showcase in November, but it's not known if he has any offers at this time. He was able to show that he is healthy, but there was a noticeable decrease in his fastball that peaked around 96 miles per hour to the low 90s. When he was healthy with the Kansas City Royals, he posted a 2.45 ERA with 145 saves and earned two All-Star appearances in 2013 and 2014 proving he can be one of the top relievers in the game. Romo spent his entire nine seasons with the Giants, but he was no longer a fit with the acquisition of Melancon. He was closer from 2012-2014, but moved to the setup role for the last two seasons. He made 40 appearances for the Giants this season and was put on the shelf for three months with a flexor strain in his right elbow, which may scare teams off a little. He posted a 2.64 ERA with 14 holds, 4 saves, and 30 strikeouts in 30 and 1/3 innings. 

Jansen has been one of the premier closers in the game for the past five seasons, but it's been proven that past success doesn't guarantee future success as a closer. Since 2012, Jansen posted a 2.22 ERA, 180 saves, and a 0.86 WHIP with the Los Angeles Dodgers. If the Nationals didn't match the Giants' four-year, $62 million offer to Mark Melancon, it's doubtful they will give at least five years, $80 million to Jansen. Their payroll with the Eaton and Espinosa trade is at $153 million and will most likely want to stay in that neighborhood. Unless they panic at the last minute, it's more likely they will go after Robertson instead of Colome in the trade market or look at one of the cheaper free agent options. 

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