MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Rizzo out to cement Nats as contenders at Meetings

Rizzo out to cement Nats as contenders at Meetings

SAN DIEGO -- Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo and his brain trust have arrived at the Winter Meetings, looking to make the team World Series contenders for the third time in four years.

MLB.com will keep you up to date on what's going on with the Nationals during the Meetings, which start on Monday. Those updates will be on nationals.com and Twitter -- @washingnats. Rizzo is expected to have afternoon sessions with the local media. He is known to be tight-lipped, so it will be interesting to see what he says during the four days.

Manager Matt Williams is also expected to talk to the media on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET, giving his take on the team.

The Nationals are expected to be the talk of the Winter Meetings. They have five players -- Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Ian Desmond, Denard Span and Tyler Clippard -- who could become free agents after the 2015 season. Will those players be signed to extensions or will they be traded? Word has it that Zimmermann, Clippard and Fister are on the trade block. If that's the case, expect Rizzo to ask for a king's ransom in return for those players.

Washington is also looking to improve its bench. It already took steps in that direction by re-signing Kevin Frandsen to a one-year deal and signing Emmanuel Burriss to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training.

Besides trying to sign their potential free agents and improving their bench, the Nats are looking for a second baseman. Asdrubal Cabrera was their everyday player at the position for the last two months of the '14 season, and he is on the free-agent market. If they don't re-sign Cabrera, and there is a good chance they won't, the Nationals could try to find a platoon partner for the switch-hitting Danny Espinosa, who is being considered to hit exclusively right-handed this season.

If the Nationals are looking specifically for an everyday second baseman, they may consider Jed Lowrie, who is a shortstop by trade but has played 58 games at second during his career. Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, who will be in the last year of his contract, could also be an option. He can drive in runs, has occasional power and is above average defensively.

Rafael Soriano is not expected to be back with the Nationals, so look for them to find a reliever for the back end of the bullpen. With Drew Storen likely remaining in the closer's role, the club will need another setup man to join Clippard if he is still with the team.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.