Will Rizzo, Nationals go after reliever?
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Determined to add a much-needed, experienced left-hander to their bullpen, the Nationals have been exploring the trade market at the Winter Meetings, with several potential targets beginning to emerge.
Among the names added to the list of free agents on the Nationals' radar: the Pirates' Justin Wilson and the Athletics' Jerry Blevins.
Several clubs reportedly have asked the Pirates about Wilson, and it's believed the Nationals are among the clubs who have expressed interest in the 26-year-old lefty. A fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft, Wilson owns a 2.07 ERA in 66 career big-league games and allowed only 50 hits in 73 2/3 innings this season with a fastball that averaged more than 95 mph.
Wilson was equally effective against batters from both sides of the plate this year, with lefties hitting just .195 against him and righties hitting a scant .186.
Because Wilson has only one full year of major-league service time and can't become a free agent until 2019, the Pirates can set a high price for him, which could be an obstacle for a Nationals club that has been reluctant to part ways with top prospects or big leaguers who figure to hold significant roles in 2014.
Blevins, who becomes a free agent in 2016, could be a more affordable option. The 30-year-old owns a 3.30 ERA over parts of the last seven seasons with the A's, during which time he has held left-handed hitters to a .224 batting average and .278 on-base percentage.
The Nationals have discussed Blevins as a trade target, according to club sources, and wouldn't be scared off by his rising salary. He made $1.1 million this year and will be due a slight raise through arbitration this winter.
General manager Mike Rizzo continues to explore the free agent market for lefties and may yet land one of several available relievers from a group that includes Eric O'Flaherty, Boone Logan, J.P. Howell, Scott Downs and Oliver Perez. (O'Flaherty is reportedly in discussions with the Braves and could wind up returning to Atlanta.)
"We're talking to free agents, and we've got some irons in the fire on the trade market," Rizzo said. "It's a position, I think, of depth this year, on the free agent market and the trade market. I think that benefits us."