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Inbox: How will Nationals fill closer role?

Beat reporter Jamal Collier answers questions from Washington fans
MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- After a quick start to the Nationals' offseason, during which they have seemingly been involved in each rumor and connected to every player on the market, things have gone quiet.

While Washington has made some improvements, the standout item on its to-do list at the start of the offseason -- finding a closer -- still hasn't been crossed off.

WASHINGTON -- After a quick start to the Nationals' offseason, during which they have seemingly been involved in each rumor and connected to every player on the market, things have gone quiet.

While Washington has made some improvements, the standout item on its to-do list at the start of the offseason -- finding a closer -- still hasn't been crossed off.

Why have the Nationals been so patient with finding a closer as other teams are signing closers that the Nats might have been interested in?
-- Carl G., Needham, Mass. 

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The Nationals have not made an official roster move since Dec. 13, so things have certainly stalled over this past month. But the market has certainly slowed in the rest of the Majors, too, with many of the big-name sluggers -- Jose Bautista, Mark Trumbo and Matt Wieters -- still free agents and some of the biggest trade pieces -- Jay Bruce and Brian Dozier -- still yet to be moved.

Washington is not the only team that has work to do before it reports to Spring Training, and there's no need to rush at this point. The same names that have been under the microscope for the past month -- Chicago's David Robertson, Tampa Bay's Alex Colome, free agent Greg Holland -- are still all available, and the Nats almost certainly have an idea of what it would cost to acquire any of them. Perhaps those asking prices could decrease as Spring Training inches closer. Or, eventually, Washington will decide which -- if any -- of those options is the best fit.

I still expect the Nationals to bring on someone with closer experience to West Palm Beach, Fla., next month, but only if they find a price they are comfortable paying. But it is becoming more realistic that the Nats could find answers to the ninth-inning question in-house.

It seems like the Nats still need a right-handed power bat to protect Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper. Banking on Ryan Zimmerman to provide that power appears risky. Any chance they are secretly looking at Jose Bautista?
-- John C., Vienna, Va.

I would find this highly unlikely -- and surprising. Bautista does not fit the type of player they normally seek in free agency, especially at 36 years old. There is not much room for him in the outfield, plus the team has faith in a rebound from Zimmerman and is not looking to replace him.

Video: Zimmerman on offseason preparation, staying healthy

Will the stadium at West Palm Beach be ready by Feb. 14? Will fans be admitted then? Will Zimmerman be ready?
-- Ben M., Sliver Spring, Md.

By all accounts, the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches has made significant progress. Even if it's not completely finished by the time pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on Feb. 14, it should be at least playable for both the Nats and Astros. Single-game tickets go on sale Saturday, and the stadium should be ready for its first game on Feb. 28. Washington's first workout is set for Feb. 16, but the ballpark won't be open to the public until Feb. 18.

Zimmerman is expected to be ready for Spring Training on time. At the Nationals WinterFest in December, he said he had already started working out. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Nats ease Zimmerman into the schedule again this spring, although he has admitted it takes him a while to get prepared for the season and find a rhythm. But he appears to be healthy, so he -- and the ballpark -- should be ready to go next month.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

 

Washington Nationals