June 26, 2017

Washington Nationals moving to phase two of offseason plan?

Consider Phase Two of Mike Rizzo’s offseason plan for the Washington Nationals underway.

(via @NBCSports)

Obviously, repairing an abysmal bullpen was Phase One, and the club’s general manager has made several moves to upgrade that staff. By adding Trevor Gott, Shawn Kelley and Yusmiero Petit, the bullpen looks to be in better shape.

And while Washington is reportedly still looking to deal disgruntled closers Drew Storen and/or Jonathan Papelbon, Rizzo’s focus has recently turned to the outfield. More specifically, they are seeking a left-handed hitter with plenty of pop.

Despite 138 games and over 500 plate appearances last season, the Nationals do not appear to view Michael A. Taylor as their current centerfielder. Of course, it’s easy to see why when you look at his power numbers from a year ago compared to the outfielders that they’ve been linked to this offseason. Taylor finished with 14 home runs, a .358 slugging percentage and 36 RBI, but his OBP was in the upper-.200s  to low-.300s through much of the season.

In free agency, the first choice across the board was Jason Heyward. But despite offering him a reported $200 million contract, Heyward opted to sign with the Chicago Cubs for less money ($184 million). Should Washington stay on the open market for Denard Span’s replacement, Justin Upton and Yeonis Cesepedes are available, but neither are left-handed hitters.

It appears that the best way for Washington cross this off their to-do list is to make a trade. On Saturday, reports surfaced that they have attempted to do just that. MASN’s Pete Kerzel tweeted that Washington has contacted the Colorado Rockies regarding Carlos Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon.

This isn’t the first we’ve heard of this rumor, however, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the two sides discussing a possible trade last week.

Via NBC Sports, Gonzalez is owed $37 million over the next two seasons, so he would be a slightly cheaper option compared to what is being dished out on the open market. The 30-year old 2015 Silver Slugger winer is coming off a career year, batting a slash of .271/.325/.540 with 40 home runs, 97 RBI and 25 doubles.

According to NBC Sports, though, the Rockies are looking for “premium pitching” in return. For Washington, if they’re looking to offload Papelbon or Storen, one of the two could be put in a package. When you couple that with Joe Ross and throw in some cash, you have the makings for a pretty serious deal.

But if the Nationals don’t want to part with the young and promising Ross, they have recently shown they’re open to dealing Gio Gonzalez, who’s entering the final year of his contract. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that they offered the two-time All-Star to the Miami Marlins in exchange for Christian Yelich, but that deal didn’t sit on the table for very long.

Since the Nationals have a growing interest in acquiring an outfield bat and have been in discussions with the Rockies for at least three days now, the possibility of a deal is certainly present. When you add in that Rizzo has shown an openness to part with pitching this offseason, the probably of a deal being reached increases.

The Nationals began MLB’s silly season quietly idling by. In the past week, however, Rizzo has opened up the check book as free agency continues to take shape. If or when he finalizes a deal to bring in a high-profile outfielder, looking to the middle infield might be Phase Three of his plan.

About Brian Skinnell

Brian Skinnell is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins, Nationals and college football. He is a born-and-raised follower of Washington, D.C. sports, “The” Ohio State Buckeyes and auto racing. A graduate of Shepherd University in December of 2014, he has a degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies with a Concentration in Sports Communications. Prior to joining District Sports Page (for his second stint), he spent time with Rant Sports, Yahoo Sports and the Washington Redskins. For his day job, he is an Editor for Team Velocity Marketing. Follow him on Twitter @Brian_Skinnell.

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