MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Bullpen help at top of Nats' Deadline wish list

Reds closer Chapman among top-tier arms on club's radar

Bullpen help at top of Nats' Deadline wish list

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals are in first place in the National League East, two games ahead of the Mets. But Washington is far from being a perfect team. It still needs to fix its bullpen before Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, with a focus on setup men who can be consistent in the seventh and eighth inning.

The team thought it had an eighth-inning guy in David Carpenter, but he is on the disabled list because of right shoulder issues. Aaron Barrett and Blake Treinen have been inconsistent, and Treinen was recently sent down to Triple-A Syracuse because he couldn't finish off hitters. Casey Janssen hasn't allowed a run in his last six games and has lowered his ERA to 2.95.

The Nats are trying to add strength to the bullpen in a big way by showing interest in Reds closer Aroldis Chapman, according to a baseball source. If Chapman were to join the team, it would not be a surprise if he assumed the closer duties and Drew Storen, the most consistent pitcher in Washington's bullpen, became one of the setup guys. He was in that role most of last year and did a great job.

This is not the first time the Nationals have had interest in Chapman. They tried to sign him after he defected from Cuba in 2009. Instead, Chapman signed a six-year, $30 million deal with the Reds.

The same source said he wouldn't be surprised if the Nats tried to acquire Padres closer Craig Kimbrel, a pitcher who can also blow hitters away.

Kimbrel gets the save

There has been talk about Tyler Clippard returning to the Nationals. He would be a setup man if he returned to Washington. No matter whom the Nats acquire, the opposing team would want a lot in return, most likely in the form of prospects.

"We're going to approach the Deadline like we do every Deadline -- if we find a need and an opportunity to improve ourselves, we've certainly showed that we've been aggressive in the past," general manager Mike Rizzo said recently. "We think we're a good team. We're certainly not a perfect team. We have evaluated ourselves. … But always in mind that we like our Minor League system and we have internal answers to a lot of our questions, also."

Manager Matt Williams was recently asked what the Nationals' biggest need was before the Trade Deadline. Williams felt the Nats would be able to add potent bats simply by getting Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon and Denard Span back from the disabled list.

Rendon was activated this past weekend and played against the Pirates, while Zimmerman and Werth are expected to be activated for Tuesday's game against the Marlins, according to two baseball sources. Zimmerman has missed more than a month of action because of left plantar fasciitis, and Werth has missed more than two months because of two small fractures in his left wrist. Span, who is on the DL because of back tightness, is running on a treadmill, but there is no timetable on when he'll be back with the team.

"We may be able to make a deal for some bats, but they all come within our system," Williams said. "We have a chance to get a three or four of them. But they are guys that are already on our team. That will help. We'll see."

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