NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- News about the Nationals started early on Tuesday morning when it was reported that free-agent right-hander Shawn Kelley was headed to Washington, but a few hours later, general manager Mike Rizzo said the team is not close to a deal with Kelley, although the two sides have been in communication.
"We have a few irons in the fire," Rizzo said. "I wouldn't describe close as a term I would use. We keep our nose to the grindstone. We are trying to do some good things to improve the club."
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The Nationals are looking to revamp their bullpen after struggling in the second half. According to a baseball source, the Nationals had dialogue with the Pirates about closer Mark Melancon, who had a 2.23 ERA and 51 saves this past season.
Nothing is serious in the talks, the source said. But it was pointed out that the Nationals have to make some moves before the talks get serious. Washington is trying to trade Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen, who were in the back end of the 'pen last season.
Besides improving the bullpen, the Nats were hoping to sign free-agent infielder Ben Zobrist, but he reportedly agreed to a four-year, $56 million deal with the Cubs on Tuesday. Washington did not speak to Zobrist face to face, but it met with his agent Bobby Witt several times this week.
Rizzo said the report about the Nationals having interest in shortstop Jimmy Rollins is not true. They currently have four candidates -- Trea Turner, Danny Espinosa, Yunel Escobar and Wilmer Difo -- who can play short entering Spring Training.
"We have not discussed any short-term shortstop," Rizzo said. "We have not had any contact with Jimmy Rollins."
Rizzo even talked about National League MVP Bryce Harper during his session with the media. It appears the Nationals are not in a rush to sign Harper to a long-term extension. Harper is not eligible for free agency until 2018.
"He is going to be a unique and special situation for the franchise. I'm sure there will be a discussion between myself and ownership," Rizzo said.
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.