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Nats check one item off their list at Winter Meetings

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Nationals didn't have a lot to do at the Winter Meetings this week. The starting lineup is set and their starting pitching is one of the best groups in the National League, thanks to the acquisition of right-hander Doug Fister earlier in the offseason.

But the Nats needed to improve their bullpen and bench, even after agreeing to terms with outfielder Nate McLouth on a two-year deal last week. They were successful in upgrading their bullpen by acquiring left-hander Jerry Blevins from the Athletics on Wednesday. 

Spring Training is two months away, and general manager Mike Rizzo is expected to keep working on upgrading the bench -- which as a unit was one of the worst in baseball in 2013 -- for new manager Matt Williams.

Deals done: Blevins was acquired from Oakland for outfielder Billy Burns, who was Washington's Minor League Player of the Year in 2013. With Blevins, the Nationals have a quality lefty who can pitch at least one inning.

Rule 5 Draft activity: The Nationals were not surprised to lose catcher Adrian Nieto in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. The team heard rumors before the Draft that it could lose him. Nieto made progress in 2013, hitting .285 with 11 home runs and 53 RBIs for Class A Potomac.

The Nats also gained two players in the Triple-A phase, selecting Reds outfielder Theodis Bowe and Mets right-hander Martires Arias.

With the loss of Burns to the Athletics, the Nationals wanted to add speed to the Minor League system, and Bowe fits the bill. During his six years in professional baseball, Bowe has swiped 136 bases. He is coming off a down year with Double-A Pensacola in 2013, hitting .206 with four home runs, 16 RBIs and 13 stolen bases.

Arias also had a down season in 2013, going 1-7 with a 5.81 ERA for Class A Kingsport.

Goals accomplished: The Nats were able to get their left-handed reliever in Blevins. Last season, the team used four lefty relievers -- Zach Duke, Fernando Abad, Ian Krol and Xavier Cedeno -- and the results were mixed. Cedeno is still on the team and will join Blevins as the two lefties on the team entering Spring Training.

Unfinished business: Washington is still looking for a backup catcher and possibly an infielder. The team still has its sights on catcher John Buck, who played for the Mets and Pirates last season. The Nationals are looking for someone who could play every day in case Wilson Ramos misses a significant amount of time.

Rizzo said he is going to give infielder Danny Espinosa every chance to make the team, most likely as a backup infielder. Espinosa is coming off the worst season of his professional career. If Espinosa is not ready to be a backup, Zach Walters could come off the bench. He can provide power, but needs to improve his defense. The Nats could go outside and sign a free-agent infielder, but the team doesn't want to break the bank to get one.

Team's bottom line: "I wouldn't say that we have to do 'X' before we leave the Winter Meetings or before we get to Spring Training. But we are going to be active, aggressive and see if there is something that comes to us that can improve our roster." -- Rizzo

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats.

Washington Nationals, Jerry Blevins