Nats monitor relief market at Winter Meetings

December 12th, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- By mid-afternoon on Wednesday, the final full day of the Winter Meetings, Nationals president of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo expressed satisfaction with how things have played out so far, even if no other deals are made while Washington's contingent is in San Diego.

Rizzo has participated in meetings with agents and other clubs all week, and while he may be done dealing for the remainder of his time on the West Coast, business will continue upon the team's return to Washington on Thursday.

It is, after all, only December. There are no deadlines or requirements for a team to finalize its roster now, not with months remaining in the offseason. But the Winter Meetings are designed to give teams face-to-face time with other clubs and agents, to perhaps lay the groundwork for future deals. That appears to be what Rizzo and his troops have accomplished this week, following Monday's signing of Stephen Strasburg.

"I think we're in a good spot," Rizzo said. "We've been extremely busy this Winter Meetings, and I think we've set up a lot of different options and a lot of different avenues. We might not necessarily complete another deal in the next day or so, but we feel that we're in position to improve our roster in a rather quick manner after the Meetings."

Rizzo, after confirming that he has met with Daniel Hudson's representatives, indicated he's confident he can find ways to upgrade the bullpen, even in a fast-moving reliever market that resulted in new contracts for Jake Diekman, Will Smith and Drew Pomeranz, among others.

"We can upgrade," Rizzo said. "I feel confident. We've done it in the past. We're going to be active in the reliever market still. There's a lot of relief pitchers that we have targeted, we have identified that would be an upgrade for us and would help us."

Hudson, who had a career year and a terrific postseason, is undoubtedly high on the Nats' priority list. But who else might they be examining?

Will Harris, who despite a couple of slip-ups in the final stages of the World Series was highly effective in 2019 for the Astros, posted a 1.50 ERA and 0.93 WHIP across 68 games and 60 innings. The 35-year-old righty has drawn interest from several teams, but as of Wednesday was still unsigned.

Another intriguing option could be 31-year-old right-hander Dellin Betances, a prototypical high-risk, high-reward option, in that he has quite an injury history but also a sterling track record when healthy. Betances missed all of 2019 with a shoulder ailment, but that followed several dominant years as one of the Yankees' most reliable bullpen arms. From 2014-18, Betances compiled a 2.22 ERA over 373 1/3 innings.

Coaching staff finalized
One order of business the Nationals did take care of this week was finalizing their coaching staff. Tim Bogar's role has changed -- he moves from first base to the dugout, where he'll serve as manager Dave Martinez's bench coach. Chip Hale, the bench coach in 2019, will take over at third base, and Bob Henley moves from third to first base.

Pat Roessler has been added as assistant hitting coach. The other coaches are returning in their same roles (pitching coach Paul Menhart, hitting coach Kevin Long and bullpen coach Henry Blanco).

Why the changes?

"Chip's obviously done third base before and is really good at it," Martinez said. "We're giving Bobby a different perspective at first base. And bringing 'Bogey' in next to me, who I've known for years... for me, it's getting a different voice. "I thought about this for many years after winning, and having been around for 10 years, doing some different things, I think it would be great for these guys to see a different perspective of the game."

Bogar was a candidate for the Mets' managerial position, which eventually went to Carlos Beltran.

"We talked a lot when [Bogar] was interviewing," Martinez said. "I told him, 'You deserve a chance to manage.' He's really good. And when he didn't get the job, I did tell him, 'I'm glad you're back.' He didn't know what we were going to do. But when I called him and told him we're going to move him to bench coach, he said, 'That's a great idea. I would've never thought of that.'"