MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

As Deadline nears, Nats in need of 'pen help

As Deadline nears, Nats in need of 'pen help

WASHINGTON -- The non-waiver Trade Deadline is Monday at 4 p.m. ET and the Nationals are still looking for bullpen help. Their closer, Jonathan Papelbon, has been in a serious slump. In his last three games, Papelbon has allowed seven earned runs in a total of one inning, while his ERA has climbed from 2.56 to 4.41.

The Nationals tried hard to land Aroldis Chapman, but they were unwilling to trade top prospects such as Lucas Giolito, Trea Turner or Victor Robles. The Yankees ended up trading the hard-throwing left-hander to the Cubs.

With Chapman out of the picture, the Nationals have had scouts in many locations looking for quality relievers. According to a source, the Nationals have had serious talks with the Royals, Pirates and Yankees about Wade Davis, Mark Melancon and Andrew Miller, respectively.

The source indicated the Yankees have asked for a king's ransom for Miller. Like they did for Chapman, the Yankees would like to refurbish the farm system. It's not known if the Nationals are willing to trade their top prospects for Miller. One thing is certain, the Nationals and Yankees are not doing a Miller for Giolito trade straight up.

As for Davis, the Royals are trying to package him and right-hander Ian Kennedy in a deal, but the Nationals do not have interest in Kennedy, who signed a five-year, $70 million deal with Kanas City this past offseason. The Royals are looking for prospects in return for Davis, who is having a monster season. Entering Friday, the two-time All-Star had allowed six earned runs in 33 2/3 innings and had saved 21 games.

The Nationals have had interest in Melancon since the last year's Winter Meetings. He is having one of his best seasons, saving 30 games with a 1.51 ERA entering Friday's action. The Pirates are also scouting Washington's farm system.

The Nationals had scouts looking at White Sox pitchers such as Nate Jones and David Robertson, but nothing is serious between the two clubs.

For now, it's not known who will be the closer for the Nationals. In Thursday's 4-2 victory over the Giants, Papelbon was pulled in the ninth after allowing two baserunners, and Shawn Kelley came in and closed the game.

"We certainly got to figure something out here," manager Dusty Baker told the media.

Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 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.