The Nats are pretty close to a complete team already – it’s still a bit odd to be able to name almost the whole starting lineup and rotation of this franchise in early January. But there are still a few pieces missing, including and sort of left handed relief pitching. Part of me thinks this isn’t such a big deal. The better relievers on the Nationals should be able to handle good hitters from either side of the plate in close games. But if they continue to not really have any lefty specialist (or, preferably like Sean Burnett, a good reliever who is just better against lefties), there will definitely be situations in 2013 where we will all wish they did. The pickins are slim these days, almost all of the free agents have been snatched up.
J.P. Howell is probably the best that’s left out there. He’s going to be 30, and has always been more effective vs. lefties, although he’s not bad against righties. He had shoulder problems that kept him out in 2010 and hopefully was the reason he was so bad in 2011. But in 2012, he was very good, especially against lefties. He was also great in 2008 and 2009. A decent $$$ short term deal is probably all it would take to get him, if they want him. There are some other guys out there who have had mixed results in their careers, like Rich Hill, Will Ohman, Manny Parra and J.C. Romero. While none of them are particularly exciting options, they could be effective is used solely as a LOOGY.
Of course, there are possibilities internally, like them or not. The first one that jumps out is Zack Duke, a lefty starter who they retained after the year. He may be set up to be a long reliever/swing man, but he has been more effective against lefties in his career, so it’s possible. They signed Bill Bray, who has been very effective against lefties in his career, to a minor league deal in December. But he has to prove he’s healthy after missing most of 2012, and that’ss no guarantee. Patrick McCoy is a 23 year old lefty reliever who pitched ok in AA Harrisburg last season, with a 3.70 ERA but 60 Ks in only 50 IP. There aren’t too many other options, at least not in the high minors.
A Surprise Option