12/8/2013 9:10 P.M. ET
Nationals interested in several lefties for bullpen
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Nationals' top priority during the Winter Meetings is to improve their bullpen from the left side. They continue to have interest in several lefties -- Oliver Perez, J.P. Howell, Boone Logan and Scott Downs, according to a baseball source. All four lefties were successful in getting lefty hitters out. Howell was the best against lefty hitters, who had a .164 batting average against the southpaw.
However, an American League scout said that Logan would be the best choice for the Nationals even though Logan had bone chips removed from his elbow this offseason. The scout said Logan is not afraid to challenge a hitter with his fastball and he is more than a situational pitcher.
"Boone Logan is at the top of the list -- no question," the scout said. "Boone Logan gets left-handers and right-handers out. He is a power pitcher and he can get the fastball up to 97 miles per hour. That hard slider that he throws, he can handle right-handed hitters with that.
"With J.P. Howell, it's all deception with him. He has to be exact in order to get guys out. He has done a pretty good job with that changeup. He has gone better than 84, 85 as far as his fastball goes."
As of now, the Nationals are not close to striking a deal with any of the left-handers available. Last year, the Nationals used four lefties -- Zach Duke, Fernando Abad, Ian Krol and Xavier Cedeno -- and the results were mixed.
To start the season, Duke was the only lefty in the bullpen and then-manager Davey Johnson hardly used him.
Then came Abad and Krol. They got off to great starts, but by August, they were inconsistent and were hardly used during the month of September. Cedeno wasn't used consistently until the month of September.
Nats could try to add Buck as backup catcher
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Nationals are looking for a backup catcher. A baseball source said the Nats have interest in catcher John Buck, who hit a combined .219 with 15 home runs and 62 RBIs for the Mets and Pirates in 2013. Buck's best season was in '10, when he hit .281 with 20 home runs and 66 RBIs with the Blue Jays.
The Nationals are looking for someone who could play every day in case Wilson Ramos misses a significant amount of time.
The team entered the offseason having interest in Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina, but they both ended up going to the Rays.
One would think that the Nationals would have interest in Rays catcher Jose Lobaton after Tampa Bay acquired Hanigan and Molina. But the source said Lobaton is not on the radar. In limited action, Lobaton hit .249 with seven home runs and 32 RBIs this past season.
"Buck has experience. He is a right-handed hitter and he throws well and his defense is still strong," an American League scout said. "[Lobaton] is much younger. He is an average thrower. He doesn't throw out that many guys. For a backup catcher, I would rather have an experienced guy. John Buck has a lot more power than [Lobaton] does."
Nationals to give Espinosa chance to make club
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Nationals are looking to acquire a middle infielder, but, according to a baseball source, they are going to give Danny Espinosa every chance to make the team as a backup infielder. He could spell infielders Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon.
However, a big league talent evaluator believes that Espinosa is not up to the task. The evaluator pointed out that Espinosa is excellent with the glove but hasn't made any improvements with the bat. Espinosa strikes out a lot and it was one of the reasons he spent most of the 2013 season in the Minor Leagues.
"The Nationals may want to try him as a backup, but he is too inconsistent at the plate," the talent evaluator said. "He is not going to give you much offense if he is not playing every day. It's hard for a young guy to sit on the bench when he feels as though they should be an everyday player."
In 2011, Espinosa hit a career-high 21 home runs, and the talent evaluator believes that number got to his head.
"He has that long upper-cut swing," the talent evaluator said. "He has to shorten his swing in order to make more contact. He has to realize that the pitchers can tell what his weaknesses are. They don't have to throw him a strike to get him out. He doesn't make consistent contact. He has to realize that the pitchers have made an adjustment and he has to make an adjustment. He has made no adjustments since he has been in the big leagues."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.