Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports that the Nationals are “actively” seeking a veteran reliever and using John Lannan as trade bait. The move comes in light of recent news that Davey Johnson elected to go with a closer committee of Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett after Henry Rodriguez proved to be ineffective in the role.
If the rumor is true, some potential targets could be Brandon Leagueof the Mariners and Grant Balfour of the Athletics, both of whom should come on the cheap after disappointing seasons thus far. It’s unlikely that the Nationals could get anything better than these two using Lannan, as he has a 6.12 ERA in 9 starts this season at Syracuse and an undesirable $5-million contract. Both League and Balfour are set to become free agents after the year, which means that should Mike Rizzo be seeking a temporary closer, the door will still be open for Drew Storen to return to the role upon his return, and in the future.
In terms of who is preferable, League would make the most sense. An All-Star closer last season, League has more experience in the closer role, and is also younger (29), should the Nats elect to resign him long-term in the offseason. The one thing about League is that he’s having a slightly worse season than Balfour (4.46 ERA vs. 4.40 ERA), however that could play to Mike Rizzo’s advantage should he try to swap him for the struggling Lannan.
However, League is not as veteran as Balfour. He is 5 years younger, which naturally means he’s seen less overall game action. Balfour also has a $4.5-million 2013 option, which means that the Nationals could keep him next season with a price already set. The option comes with a $350k buyout, a small price to pay for the option to keep the veteran reliever.
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