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Rizzo: Blevins was “our best option”

Dec 11, 2013, 6:08 PM EDT

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Nationals talked to every left-handed reliever on the open market. And they inquired about potential trades with three or four clubs.

In the end, Mike Rizzo decided a Jerry Blevins-for-Billy Burns swap with the Athletics made the most sense in multiple ways.

“This was the best option we could find with the combination of talent, role, cost,” Rizzo said Wednesday afternoon from his suite at the Dolphin Resort. “This was our best option.”

Blevins, a 30-year-old with a 3.30 ERA in parts of seven seasons with the A’s, wasn’t necessarily the best available left-handed reliever. But recognizing the price for free agents Eric O’Flaherty, J.P. Howell and Boone Logan was higher than he preferred, and recognizing a trade for a younger lefty like the Pirates’ Justin Wilson would have required a more significant return, Rizzo settled on Blevins as the best fit for his team.

And there’s plenty to like about him. Blevins allowed slightly more than one batter to reach base per inning over the last two seasons. He has been effective against both lefties (.224 batting average) and righties (.240 batting average) in his career. His projected $1.5 million salary makes him a relative bargain. He’s under team control for the next two years. And he was touted by teammates in Oakland as a clubhouse leader and respected bullpen member.

“A younger, controllable type of guy that we’d have more than a year, and at a price point that we felt like made sense for us,” Rizzo said.

Blevins (a teammate of Craig Stammen at the University of Dayton) fills an obvious need for the Nationals, who entered 2013 without a late-inning lefty reliever, and will be new manager Matt Williams’ first choice to face tough left-handed hitters. He won’t be used strictly as a specialist, though, and is expected to pitch full innings with regularity, Rizzo said.

The Nationals view Blevins’ unusual 2013 stats — he actually was more effective against right-handed batters — as a fluke.

“I think his career numbers show that he’s successful against lefties and righties,” Rizzo said. “Last year he had a little bit of a reverse split, but we feel comfortable that he can get left-handers and right-handers out.”

The Nationals did like another left-hander out of the Athletics’ bullpen, Sean Doolittle, but from previous conversations with Oakland GM Billy Beane, Rizzo understood the University of Virginia alum was not available.

This trade did represent yet another marriage between Rizzo and Beane. The Nationals and A’s now have consummated seven trades over the last three years, deals that included the likes of Josh Willingham, Henry Rodriguez, Michael Morse, Gio Gonzalez, Ian Krol, Fernando Abad, Kurt Suzuki (twice) and A.J. Cole (twice).

Is there any particular reason Rizzo and Beane have been able to complete so many deals with each other?

“I think the relationship part between me and Billy is a little overstated,” Rizzo said. “We kind of speak the same language as far as the way we approach trades. We’re both very upfront and fairly decisive. When we see a match, we usually go and make a deal. They scout our system extremely well. They know them very well. They’ve had the players we’ve been looking to acquire on quite a few occasions.”

The A’s scouted and liked Burns, a 24-year-old speedster Rizzo called “a scouting success story” after developing from a 32nd round draft pick in 2011 into the organization’s player of the year in 2013.

At the encouragement of the Nationals, Burns learned how to switch-hit once he became a professional and wound up hitting .315 with a .425 on-base percentage and 74 stolen bases this season between Class A Potomac and Class AA Harrisburg.

At the same time, Burns was well down the organization’s depth chart and faced a tough road trying to leapfrog fellow outfield prospects Brian Goodwin, Michael Taylor and Steven Souza.

“We traded from depth,” Rizzo said. “We’ve got a lot of depth in the outfield position with the emergence of Michael Taylor, Goodwin and Souza, that group of guys, and we felt that this was a position that we could afford to dip into and get the reliever we were looking for.”

The trade does have one other significant ramification: Blevins’ acquisition leaves the Nationals with a full 40-man roster. That would preclude them from selecting a player in Thursday’s Rule 5 draft.

  1. DaveB - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    So, got new posted, but since Mark mentioned the roster size here … I think the roster will actually be at 41 once Nate McLouth passes his physical & becomes official, right?

    • David Proctor - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:25 PM

      Ken Rosenthal ‏@Ken_Rosenthal 1m
      Would #Nationals trade Jordan Zimmermann? They twice have tried to extend him. Like #Rays’ Price, he has two years of club control left. So…I asked #Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, who said, “We’d certainly love to get something done with him. But like any premium guy on your team, if there is something that can’t be done, then you would think about a trade. But that’s the furthest thing from our minds.”

      I don’t think that’s really on the table this year…there’s no replacement for him and the team is in win-now mode. But next year? If he still can’t be extended? I definitely wouldn’t rule it out.

      • David Proctor - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:26 PM

        Ugh, I didn’t mean to post this as a reply to you, Dave. Sorry!

    • David Proctor - Dec 11, 2013 at 7:02 PM

      To answer your question, McLouth took his physical today. He’s on the 40 man now.

      • therealjohnc - Dec 11, 2013 at 11:51 PM

        He’s not listed on the web site on nationals.com. And that roster has 40 players on it. So someone will have to go. Most likely Brown, some small chance it will be Ryan Mattheus or Erik Davis.

  2. Danny - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:42 PM

    All I keep reading from AL West fans is that they are happy to see him out of he division and that he is underrated. Good enough for me.

  3. Drew - Dec 11, 2013 at 7:14 PM

    That is one magic loogy.

  4. Candide - Dec 11, 2013 at 7:33 PM

    NatsFest Tickets go on sale tomorrow. Never been to one, and since it’s right across the river from us in Alexandria, I got Cunegonde’s permission to get us two tix.

  5. David Proctor - Dec 11, 2013 at 7:49 PM

    Span was just on MLB Network. I thought he had some very revealing things to say. He was asked about the biggest difference between playing for the Twins and Nats. He said the Twins focused more on defense, doing the little things right, etc. and that the Nationals were more about just going out and playing. Now, that’s not really surprising by itself–we’ve heard similar things for a while. But Span seemed to imply that it was surprising to him and maybe not the best way to do things. I have a feeling he’ll approve of Matt Williams style more.

    • therealjohnc - Dec 11, 2013 at 11:52 PM

      Span did say that. He also said the Nationals treated the players “more like adults.” I’m not sure who he was trying to compliment there.

  6. Sonny G 10 - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:04 PM

    If Blevins was not the best left-hander available, but Rizzo says he was the best option for the Nats considering money and everything, then I’ll look for the best in this acquisition. Bench fortifications next? Gosh, at this rate all the fun will be over and its a long time until ST. Guess we’ll have to talk about our acquisitions ad nauseam till then.

    • sjm308 - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:35 PM

      Sonny – to me, the next step is the backup catcher. I don’t hate our bench right now. I hear nothing about dropping Hairston, hear a bunch about Espinosa getting every opportunity, McClouth is definitely set, that leaves one spot and I guess it could be Ty Moore, so get that catcher and I am not sure we need to do much more. Again, I would love to see us sign O’Flaherty but not sure it will happen.

      • Sonny G 10 - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:11 PM

        yes, same here on O’Flaherty. Otherwise like to see him not go to the Braves

  7. Sonny G 10 - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    Off topic:
    Regarding the rule change about no collisions at home plate, this must mean that catchers will no longer be allow to block home plate. Otherwise it is not fair to the runner.

    • Hiram Hover - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:19 PM

      Who knows? The rule remains to be written. Sandy Alderson is in charge of the committee and had this to say:

      So the actual detail, frankly the kinds of plays that we’re trying to eliminate, we haven’t finally determined.

  8. sjm308 - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:28 PM

    This is not a blockbuster trade but I am surprised that there is any negativity to this one. Burns is already 24, has barely played in AA and was at my count about our #7 outfielder in the minors Yes, he might make it to the majors by 26 but he would not be more than a bench player for us at best. Blevins is a 7 year Major League veteran, not exceptional but he plays in the majors and is not horrible.He is also under control and a fairly low salary for two more years. Rizzo said we were going to get a lefty for the pen and he delivered. I like others, would love to see him snag O’Flaherty but I am betting he goes back to the Braves.

    Go Nats

    ps: I will never concede that the Willingham trade was that bad. Yes, we got nothing that contributed on the major league level (well, Henry did have a few decent innings) but if Willingham had stayed, Morse would have never had the chance to break out. Willingham left the A’s after one year and while he could go deep, his defense was horrible and he belonged in the AL as a dh. I would have hoped to get more for him but it certainly wasn’t a total loss because of what Morse did for this team.

    • scnatsfan - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:55 PM

      I agree. Not like Hammer put up Mantle like numbers.

      • therealjohnc - Dec 11, 2013 at 11:55 PM

        Well for me it’s not the numbers that Willingham put up. Those were fine. It was that the trade was for one year of Willingham, his final year before free agency. So most of the numbers that people obsess over with Willingham were completely irrelevant to the trade, because he wasn’t coming back. Morse more than filled that role for the Nationals.

  9. Jacob Rasch - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:29 PM

    Rizzo and Beane are at it again. A brief history of their baseball relationship here: http://seriousjammage.com/2013/12/12/let-me-tell-you-bout-my-best-friend-the-nationals-and-as-story/

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:15 PM

      Thanks for the link up. A good analysis. My sources tell me that the writer is younger than Bryce Harper. If true, impressive!

      Give their blog a read.

      • Jacob Rasch - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:17 PM

        No problem! I have it on good authority that said writer is wise beyond his years.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:33 PM

        Jacob, I guess my sources got it right. ;) I will check in with my sources for some other insider dirt!

  10. sjm308 - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:47 PM

    I think this was mentioned in an earlier post but I did not go back to see if it was answered. I think that we are at 41 men for the 40 man roster. I don’t think McClouth has been added yet but when he is, someone will have to go. Is it Corey Brown? or do they try and sneak Davis through? Also whatever happened to Robertson who was moved off the 40 man earlier this winter? Final question – for Ghost or Natsjack or whoever – are we going to be in the market for anyone in the Rule 5 draft? and are we in danger of losing anyone?

    thanks in advance

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:54 PM

      SJM, The Nats won’t be choosing anyone in the Rule 5. I think the Nats are risking Nieto the catcher I’m Potomac.

    • David Proctor - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:56 PM

      McLouth has been added already. He took his physical today. So it’s at 40.

      As far as the rule 5 draft, I read a report that the White Sox were interested in Adrien Nieto. That would be very aggressive of them since he was playing in Potomac last year. Unless we cut someone from the 40 man, we won’t be in the market.

      • sjm308 - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:59 PM

        David – If McClouth is #40 who is being moved to add Blevins? I don’t think Burns was on the 40 man but I could be wrong.

      • David Proctor - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:10 PM

        I’m wrong. I was right that Nate McLouth took his physical today, and it was reported he’d be added to the 40 man roster when that was done, but I’m looking at the roster now and it hasn’t been made official. Here is the 40 man roster for reference:

        http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/team/roster_40man.jsp?c_id=was

        So Blevens is #40. I’d guess Corey Brown will be DFA’d tomorrow.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:12 PM

        SJM, you are correct. Nats are at 41 and have to get rid of someone.

        21 pitchers, 3 catchers, 6 infielders, 11 outfielders.

        Tyler Moore and Kobernus are both in the outfield count.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:16 PM

        I thought Burns was added with Souza to the 40 man but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

        I agree that Corey Brown will be the odd man out.

      • David Proctor - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:21 PM

        Michael Taylor was added with Souza (along with Sammy Solis)

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:30 PM

        David, thanks for that info on Michael Taylor.

  11. nats128 - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:23 PM

    http://sports.yahoo.com/news/parking-lot-altercation-steals-the-show-at-winter-meetings-023231001.html

    I wonder who the 2 agents duking it out were!

  12. David Proctor - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:39 PM

    Kilgore reporting that Rizzo will again attempt to extend JZimm and Desi this winter. Obviously. But Fister was apparently acquired with JZimm insurance in mind.

    “If the Nationals cannot extend Zimmermann this winter, they would be forced to consider trading him at this time next year, according to a person familiar with the situation. When the Nationals traded for Fister, that went into their thought process: If they couldn’t extend Zimmermann and ultimately traded him after 2014, then Fister would still give them a front three of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Fister.

    The same logic may apply to Desmond, but the difficulty of finding a replacement would likely make the Nationals more apt to keep Desmond through the end of his contract.

    In any event, the best-case scenario for the Nationals would be signing both to extensions this winter, keeping them off the free agent market and eliminating the future headache of having to replace them.”

  13. veejh - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:41 PM

    He was our “best option” if you are trying to cut corners. Come on. Are we trying to win the WS, or what? Another lefty move better be on the horizon.

    • veejh - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:44 PM

      this move stinks of a salary cap imposed by daddy warbucks.

      • David Proctor - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:46 PM

        Our payroll is approaching 140M. What more can you ask? He’s been effective.

      • nats128 - Dec 11, 2013 at 11:08 PM

        Yah, that Nats are up there with the big boys. Top 10 for sure. Team Payroll doesnt guarantee success which makes it a non-issue. What is the issue is how good the team is.

  14. whatsanattau - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:50 PM

    Nook Logan?

    • Eugene in Oregon - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:58 PM

      ?

    • Hiram Hover - Dec 11, 2013 at 11:49 PM

      Elijah Dukes!

  15. Eugene in Oregon - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:50 PM

    So, if you had to name it today, I’m thinking the Nats 25-man roster (expressed in depth chart format) would look something like this:

    1B: LaRoche, Moore, Zimmerman
    2B: Rendon, Espinosa
    SS: Desmond, Espinosa
    3B: Zimmerman, Rendon, Espinosa

    LF: Harper, McLouth, Moore, Hairston
    CF: Span, Harper, McLouth, Werth
    RF: Werth, McLouth, Harper, Hairston

    C: Ramos, either Solano or Leon

    Sub-total = 13 position players

    SP: Strasburg, Zimmermann, Gonzalez, Fister, then either Detwiler or Roark (or, just possibly Jordon or Ohlendorf)

    Sub-total = 13 PPs + 5 SPs = 18

    RP: Soriano, Clippard, Storen, Stammen, Blevins, followed by some combination (totaling only two) of Mattheus, Cedeno, and either or both of Roark and Ohlendorf (or Detwiler if he doesn’t make the starting rotation).

    Total = 13 PPs + 5 SPs + 7 RPs = 25

    In the game of musical chairs that involves the pitching staff, there’s obviously a few folks (three by my count) who get left out. Those with options include, I believe, Messrs, Mattheus, Roark, and Taylor. What about Messrs. Cedeno and Ohlendorf? Anyone else on the 40-man who folks see as legitimately competing for the Opening Day roster?

    Equally obviously, Danny Espinosa has to prove he can hit. And, if the Nats were to add an Eric Chavez or Jeff Baker-type 1B/3B/PH, someone (Tyler Moore? Scott Hairston?) would have to go. I just don’t see any of the other position players on the 40-man competing seriously for an Opening Day spot on the roster, but you never know who’s going to have a Spring Training that can’t be ignored.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:58 PM

      “Those with options include, I believe, Messrs, Mattheus, Roark, and Taylor.” — ‘Taylor’ should read ‘Jordan’ of course.

    • David Proctor - Dec 11, 2013 at 11:01 PM

      Well I don’t think we’re going into Opening Day with just one left-handed reliever. Rizzo strongly implied that Cedeno had earned himself a shot as a LOOGY if Detwiler wins the rotation job (he seems to view Blevins as more of a setup guy than a LOOGY). So that really leaves only one bullpen spot open, I think, for Ohlendorf, Mattheus, Roark and Jordan. 3 of those I know have options, I’m not sure about Ohlendorf.

      If we get Chavez or someone similar (Kilgore reported again today that we’re still interested in Jeff Baker), that would boot Moore off the roster, I think.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Dec 12, 2013 at 12:27 AM

        I mostly agree, although I’m still hopeful that we could see another LH reliever acquisition, either by trade or an FA signing. That might be a false hope, but I have it nonetheless.

        Regarding Ryan Mattheus, I have a gut feeling we’ve seen the last of him in a Washington Nationals uniform. His on- and off-field performance last season strike me as pointing him in the direction of becoming a PTBNL or some such. I could easily be wrong, but that’s what my intuition tells me.

        Regarding Tyler Moore, I have a similar feeling that he’ll be the odd man out when all the machinations end in a few weeks or months. Again, I could see him being included as a piece of a larger deal, although I can’t exactly predict what that deal might be.

  16. Eugene in Oregon - Dec 12, 2013 at 12:21 AM

    A nice MLBTR original analysis on the Doug Fister deal:

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/12/doug-fisters-hidden-value-to-the-nationals.html

  17. David Proctor - Dec 12, 2013 at 12:32 AM

    As I head off to bed, here’s an interesting article to read:

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/12/doug-fisters-hidden-value-to-the-nationals.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

  18. Drew - Dec 12, 2013 at 1:20 AM

    Eugene:

    Thanks for the roster analysis. The way the numbers game is shaking out, some pretty good pitchers could wind up in Syracuse. Roark, Jordan and Ohlendorf might start there, with Rosenbaum. Garcia and Cedeno could be in the Syracuse pen.

    If Detwiler makes the Nats rotation and Solis gets the Gorzy role, you’ve got:

    Strasburg
    Zimnn
    Gonzalez
    Fister
    Detwiler
    Stammen
    Solis
    Blevins
    Clippard
    Storen
    Soriano

    I agree this suggests Mattheus is done with the Nats.

    Of course, Det could have the Gorzy role, with Roark or Jordan as the fifth starter and Solis in Syracuse.

    Either way, I like the depth – especially that studs Giolito and Cole are on their way.

  19. dgourds - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    Thanks for the link. Did you read the story on the Whitewall Ninja in our minor league system? Absolutely hilarious. I love the kid. I hope he makes it to the big leagues.

    http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130702&content_id=52469546&fext=.jsp&vkey=news_milb

  20. realdealnats - Dec 12, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    Who thinks Det can thrive as a #5 Starter? Who would put him in the BP?

    What would be your reasons for either move?

    Man, suddenly the BP is loaded with lefties and righties. Who’s # 7?

    Can we afford 3 lefties in the BP?

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