Bill Ladson

Nationals set to go with Plan B for bullpen

With O'Day, Chapman apparently off the market, club could target Yanks' Miller

Nationals set to go with Plan B for bullpen

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Once the 2015 season ended, the Nationals' top priority was to improve the bullpen. They got off to a great start Friday by agreeing with left-hander Oliver Perez on a two-year, $7 million deal, according to a source. The team has yet to confirm the deal.

But it has been tough going since then. Washington was hoping to sign right-hander Darren O'Day and trade for left-hander Aroldis Chapman, but O'Day is working on finalizing a deal with the Orioles and the Reds are reportedly working on a trade to send Chapman to the Dodgers for Minor Leaguers.

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So what's Plan B for Washington now that those two players appear to be off the market? According to a baseball source, the Nationals have expressed interest in Yankees left-hander Andrew Miller, who has three years left on his contract at $9 million per year. In his first year in New York, Miller had 36 saves and 100 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings. The Yanks are looking for starting pitching and a second baseman.

With Craig Stammen no longer on the team, the Nats need a long reliever. Right-hander Yusmeiro Petit, who was non-tendered by the Giants, could be a fit for Washington.

The Nationals have some jewels in their bullpen. By the end of the 2015 season, Felipe Rivero was the only reliever who could get outs on a consistent basis. Former manager Matt Williams used him at closer after the team suspended Jonathan Papelbon. Will Rivero be the closer in 2016? It's anyone's guess at this point.

The organization has praised Blake Treinen since it acquired him from the Athletics in a three-team deal that sent Michael Morse to the Mariners after the 2012 season. But Treinen has to learn how to get left-handed hitters out. He has a 98-mph sinker, but he had trouble keeping it down against lefties. It will be interesting to see what Treinen does to improve his pitching repertoire when Spring Training starts.

The Nationals can dive into their Minor League system and add a couple of players. Right-hander Austin Voth, the No. 10 prospect in the Nats' farm system, is a starter, but he could be converted into a reliever. He had 148 strikeouts in 157 1/3 innings for Double-A Harrisburg in 2015.

Abel De Los Santos, the 27th-best prospect in the system, had a cup of coffee in the big leagues this past season. Opponents hit just .241 against him while he was at Harrisburg.

Papelbon and Drew Storen are still on the team, but the Nationals are looking to trade them, according to a baseball source. Papelbon recently filed a grievance against the Nats because he wasn't paid for the final four games of the 2015 season.

Papelbon's season came to an end on Sept. 28, when the Nationals announced that he had been suspended for the final four games of the season without pay for his confrontation with right fielder Bryce Harper in a 12-5 loss to the Phillies on Sept. 27.

Storen was having arguably the best season of his career in 2015 -- going 1-0 with a 1.89 ERA during the first half -- until the Nationals acquired Papelbon to become the closer. After Papelbon joined the team, Storen had a 6.75 ERA and broke his right thumb after he allowed a decisive homer to the Mets' Yoenis Cespedes in September.

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