Dec 10, 2013, 6:04 PM EST
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — On Tuesday morning, two Nationals sources downplayed trade talks involving Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen.
On Tuesday afternoon, Mike Rizzo shot down the notion he’s even received a formal offer for either reliever. Or center fielder Denard Span.
“We haven’t been fielding all that many calls on Clippard and Storen,” Rizzo said from his suite at the Dolphin Resort at Walt Disney World. “There’s a lot of ‘lobby talk,’ I call it, about it. But there’s been actually no offer, no trade scenario that’s official, that included Clippard or Storen. Or Span.”
Rizzo appears perfectly content to go into spring training with a deep, albeit expensive, bullpen that includes Clippard and Storen setting up closer Rafael Soriano. Despite speculation that another club could pursue either Clippard or Storen for closing duties, the Nationals prefer to keep all three on the roster, recognizing the need for depth.
“What happens if Soriano gets hurt?” one club official said. “We need those two guys.”
Soriano recorded 43 saves with a 3.11 ERA this season, but he also was charged with a career-high six blown saves while seeing his strikeout rate drop to a career-worst 6.9 per nine innings.
Clippard and Storen, meanwhile, each have closing experience for the Nationals, with Storen recording 43 saves in 2011 and Clippard saving 32 games in 2012 while Storen was recovering from elbow surgery.
That experience makes either right-hander attractive to other clubs. But even if the Nationals were willing to engage in serious trade talks, the price they would set for Clippard or Storen would be extremely high.
That also holds true for Span, whose status as the Nationals’ leadoff hitter and center fielder remains rock-solid in the wake of this week’s signing of veteran Nate McLouth. Club officials believe Span can pick up where he left off in the second half of the season, when he hit .302 with a .337 on-base percentage.
“You don’t argue with Denard leading off,” new manager Matt Williams said Tuesday. ” We think of him in that role.”
Rizzo didn’t publicly address any trade discussions involving Danny Espinosa, but the GM talked up his infielder on Monday and multiple club sources said Tuesday there’s no chance of Espinosa being traded this winter.
After a disastrous season when he hit .158, was demoted and then hit .216 in Syracuse, Espinosa’s value is at an all-time low. Regardless, the Nationals still view the 26-year-old as an important part of the club’s future, perhaps as a utility infielder, and see him as an immediate answer at shortstop if Ian Desmond were to be injured.
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