Closer, bench decisions imminent for Nats

Closer, bench decisions imminent for Nats

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals boast a strong team that is likely to defend its National League East title, but with less than a month to go before Spring Training, they are interested in making more moves.

Washington has already had a busy offseason, acquiring Adam Eaton as its new center fielder and Derek Norris as its new catcher and paving the way for Trea Turner to take over as the everyday shortstop. The Nats have not made any roster moves in over a month, but they still have a few potential options.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Around the Horn: Nats have stud at 2B in Murph

Around the Horn: Nats have stud at 2B in Murph

With the start of Spring Training just a few weeks away, anticipation is building for the 2017 season. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to West Palm Beach, Fla., by Feb. 14, and it's time to break down the Nationals' roster.

This is the third installment of a multipart Around the Horn series taking a position-by-position look at the projected starters and backups heading into the season, with the latest examining the Nats' second baseman.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

'Rock' inspired by Morgan to choose baseball over football

HOF inductee wanted to emulate former Reds second baseman

'Rock' inspired by Morgan to choose baseball over football

NEW YORK -- During his teenage years, National Baseball Hall of Famer Tim Raines wanted to be an NFL star, but it was Joe Morgan's greatness at second base that convinced him to become an infielder. The same Joe Morgan who won two National League Most Valuable Player Awards, helped the Reds capture two World Series titles and is now enshrined in Cooperstown.

"Joe Morgan is the reason I chose to be a professional baseball player," Raines said. "Seeing the things he did on the field was phenomenal. He was a second baseman, hit home runs and stole bases. He was a Gold Glove second baseman."

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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.

Raines, Pudge bound for Cooperstown

Raines, Pudge bound for Cooperstown

WASHINGTON -- Ivan Rodriguez, who played in Washington from 2010-11, will become the first player who played for the Nationals to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame after Rodriguez was one of three players named to Cooperstown on Wednesday night.

Rodriguez is not the only player with ties to the franchise elected Wednesday as he will be joined by Tim Raines, who spent most of his career with the Expos. Jeff Bagwell will also be enshrined this July. Vladimir Guerrero, who played the first eight seasons of his career with the Expos, had a strong showing his his first year of eligibility, garnering 71.7 percent of the votes cast.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Raines' delay: Better wait than never

Speedster's 10-year journey to HOF scripts beautiful ending

Raines' delay: Better wait than never

For the past 10 years, Tim Raines has been very much on our minds. This is the wonder of the Baseball Hall of Fame. We don't really have deep conversations about long-ago players like Raines in other sports -- you don't hear too many people celebrating or arguing about Alex English or Andre Tippett or Mike Gartner.

But Raines, yes, for a decade now people have been contemplating him, quarreling about him, remembering him as a blur between first and second base, remembering him as a part-time player for the second half of his career, learning all sorts of new things about him. Did you know that Raines got on base more times than Tony Gwynn? Wow. Did you know that in his rookie season in 1981, he stole 50 bases in his first 54 games? Raines was on pace to absolutely shatter the stolen base record. And then the strike came. Remember?

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Joe Posnanski is a No. 1 New York Times best-selling author, an Emmy Award-winning writer and has been awarded National Sportswriter of the Year. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

On final attempt, Raines gains entry to Hall

On final attempt, Raines gains entry to Hall

NEW YORK -- The wait is finally over for Tim Raines, and it was worth it. On the ballot for the 10th and final time, Raines, one of the best leadoff hitters in history, was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Wednesday.

Raines was named on 86 percent of ballots.

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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.

Raines writes open letter after Hall induction

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Raines writes open letter after Hall induction

Tim Raines had waited a long, long time for this. After his iconic 23-year career ended in 2002, Rock waited the standard five years to see his name on the Hall of Fame ballot, then another nine years after that, as he inched closer and closer to the 75 percent of the vote necessary for enshrinement.

Then, on Wednesday, after 15 years of waiting and a life dedicated to baseball, Raines -- in his final year of eligibility -- finally got the call: He'd been voted into Cooperstown. Naturally, it was an emotional moment for the Expos legend, not to mention everyone who'd become invested in his cause over the past decade (read: basically the entire Internet). And if you don't believe us, just read the open letter Raines posted to Twitter after learning the news and try to keep it together.

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Inbox: Are Nats willing to spend more?

Beat reporter Jamal Collier answers questions from Washington fans

Inbox: Are Nats willing to spend more?

WASHINGTON -- Pitchers and catchers report to Nationals' Spring Training four weeks from Tuesday, and while Washington still has a few items left on its to-do list, it did cross a big one off last week by settling with its four arbitration-eligible players to avoid a hearing for the second consecutive season.

It gives the Nationals some clarity on their Opening Day payroll, and this week's Inbox begins with a look at where that payroll stands.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Harper hopes Wieters, Holland join him in D.C.

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Harper hopes Wieters, Holland join him in D.C.

In winter, the primary occupation for most baseball fans is window shopping. That is, they look at the best players available on the free-agent market and tweet about how much they want those players to join their team. Nationals fans are no different in this respect. 

And, with the team reportedly interested in signing catcher Matt Wieters  and pitcher Greg Holland,  now is the perfect time to lobby on social media for such splashy moves. Here's one Nats fan's attempt to sway his favorite team toward that decision:

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Around the Horn: Zim to hold down first base

Around the Horn: Zim to hold down first base

With the start of Spring Training just a few weeks away, anticipation is building for the 2017 season. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to West Palm Beach, Fla., by Feb. 14, and it's time to break down the Nationals' roster.

This is the second installment of a multi-part Around the Horn series taking a position-by-position look at the projected starters and backups heading into the season, examining first base.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nats settle with Harper, all other arb-eligibles

Washington will avoid hearing after 2015 NL MVP, Rendon, Roark and Norris settle

Nats settle with Harper, all other arb-eligibles

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals avoided any arbitration hearings this offseason after agreeing to terms with all four of their arbitration-eligible players on Friday.

Washington avoided arbitration with Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, right-hander Tanner Roark and catcher Derek Norris, agreeing to one-year deals with each player.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nats sign veteran lefty Cotts to Minors deal

Nats sign veteran lefty Cotts to Minors deal

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals signed veteran left-hander Neal Cotts to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Major League Spring Training, the team announced Friday morning.

The Nats have two left-handers already slated for their Opening Day bullpen in Sammy Solis and Oliver Perez, but Cotts could have a chance to break camp with the Major League club if he can prove he has something left in the tank. Washington carried three left-handers in its bullpen for most of last season, and manager Dusty Baker enjoys the matchup flexibility it gives him late in games.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Robles named to Pipeline's All-Defense Team

Padres' Margot garners most votes for best defensive prospect

Robles named to Pipeline's All-Defense Team

These days, there may be more value placed on defense and certainly more time spent on evaluating and quantifying it than ever before. When MLBPipeline.com surveyed front-office officials as to which prospects stood out most for their glovework, there was no shortage of candidates.

In fact, there were so many talented defenders that among the 18 votes we received, no player garnered more than Padres outfielder Manuel Margot's three and a half. Thirteen players received at least a half a vote -- we allowed executives to split their picks -- and another five were brought up as worthy of discussion.

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Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Inbox: How will Nationals fill closer role?

Beat reporter Jamal Collier answers questions from Washington fans

Inbox: How will Nationals fill closer role?

WASHINGTON -- After a quick start to the Nationals' offseason, during which they have seemingly been involved in each rumor and connected to every player on the market, things have gone quiet.

While Washington has made some improvements, the standout item on its to-do list at the start of the offseason -- finding a closer -- still hasn't been crossed off.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Roark to pitch for Team USA in WBC 2017

Nationals right-hander was invited before Scherzer had to bow out with stress fracture

Roark to pitch for Team USA in WBC 2017

Nationals right-hander Tanner Roark has committed to play for Team USA in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

The addition of Roark should soften the blow suffered by Team USA when its projected ace, Max Scherzer, pulled out Monday on account of a stress fracture in his right ring finger.

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Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nats retain Minors staffs, adjust strength coaches

WASHINGTON -- Valuing stability throughout the organization, especially as their top prospects rise through the system, the Nationals retained their Minor League managers and their entire coaching staffs for the 2017 season.

Billy Gardner will continue to manage Triple-A Syracuse, Matt LeCroy will return with Double-A Harrisburg, Tripp Keister is back with Class A Advanced Potomac and Patrick Anderson continues to lead Class A Hagerstown. Spin Williams will return as senior advisor of player development, and Randy Knorr will return as special advisor for player development.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nats should gamble on Holland as closer

Nats should gamble on Holland as closer

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals are still in the hunt for a closer with the start of a new calendar year. They missed out on top free-agent options like Mark Melancon and Kenley Jansen, but they have remained persistent in their search for a relief ace.

Washington has players on its roster that could be capable of filling in, and the club has maintained that it believes those players can succeed in the role. However, the Nationals' continued search for a closer also signals they would be more comfortable acquiring someone with experience. So my bold prediction for the remainder of the offseason is that the Nats will sign Greg Holland to become their closer.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Finger injury to sideline Scherzer for WBC '17

Finger injury to sideline Scherzer for WBC '17

WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer has a stress fracture on the knuckle of his right ring finger, the Nationals revealed Monday. The rehab process for that finger will force him to withdraw from pitching for Team USA in this year's World Baseball Classic.

Despite the injury, the Nationals say Scherzer is expected to be a full participant in Spring Training.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Spring is in the air: First workout dates announced

Spring is in the air: First workout dates announced

Despite the frigid temperatures throughout many big league cities, Major League Baseball's announcement Tuesday of the first workout dates of Spring Training should be enough to warm the hearts of baseball fans everywhere.

The following are the first Spring Training workout dates, subject to change, both for pitchers and catchers and full squads of the 30 Major League clubs. 

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Around the Horn: Norris to lead Nats behind plate

Washington traded for veteran in offseason to replace departed Ramos

Around the Horn: Norris to lead Nats behind plate

With the start of Spring Training just a few weeks away, anticipation is building for the 2017 season. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to West Palm Beach, Fla., by Feb.14, and it's time to break down the Nationals' roster.

This is the first part of a multi-part Around the Horn series taking a position-by-position look at the projected starters and backups heading into the season, beginning with the Nats' catching situation.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Just you weight: Bryce Harper lifts 505 lbs!

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Just you weight: Bryce Harper lifts 505 lbs!

Look, it may be impossible to understand how strong Bryce Harper really is. We can watch him mash baseballs into the Andromeda Galaxy, sure, but until humanity achieves interstellar travel, we may never know just how far his home runs reach. We can gaze upon his bulging muscles, but their latent power escapes rational thought. His true strength seems unfathomable.

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Roark not taking anything for granted in '17

Righty established himself last season, but will go to camp with mentality that he doesn't have 'free spot'

Roark not taking anything for granted in '17

WASHINGTON -- Tanner Roark proved in 2016 that he can be a dominant starting pitcher. He had carried that burden on his shoulder entering Spring Training last year, wanting to show everyone that he should never have been booted from the rotation.

After his success as a starter last season, Roark has established himself as an integral part of the Nationals' rotation. But the same desire to prove himself remains.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nats add Watson to pro scouting department

Nats add Watson to pro scouting department

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have hired De Jon Watson, the D-backs' former senior vice president of baseball operations, to their pro scouting department as a special assistant to general manager Mike Rizzo.

Watson spent the past two seasons overseeing Arizona's scouting and player development departments. He worked closely with then-chief baseball officer Tony La Russa and then-general manager Dave Stewart before the D-backs decided not to pick up Watson's contract option in September and eventually parted ways with Stewart in an effort to overhaul their regime.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Inbox: Will Nats and A's swing another deal?

Beat reporter Jamal Collier answers fans' questions

Inbox: Will Nats and A's swing another deal?

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have announced their Spring Training reporting dates, with pitchers and catchers due in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Feb. 14 and position players to follow Feb. 17.

So as the countdown begins, the Nats have a few items on their to-do list before they pack up for Florida. This week's Inbox takes a look at another potential closing option, bench possibilities, questions about starting pitching health and depth ... and Mike Trout.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Finding a closer, filling bench on Nats' to-do list

Washington also wants to settle Baker's contract before final year

Finding a closer, filling bench on Nats' to-do list

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have already had a busy offseason, competing for many of the top names on the free-agent market and pulling off trades for a new center fielder in Adam Eaton and catcher in Derek Norris.

But they are not done. With nearly six weeks until they report to their new Spring Training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., the Nats should continue to be one of the most active teams. Here are a few things the Nationals need to accomplish before they head off to Florida.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

With reinforcements, title remains Nats' goal

Eaton added to strong foundation as Washington aims for a healthy 2017

With reinforcements, title remains Nats' goal

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have undertaken the tricky task this offseason of trying to improve a 95-win team that just barely suffered defeat in the National League Division Series.

In some ways, the Nationals were so strong and so close to breaking through, and with a few bounce-back seasons and some good health, they could find themselves in position to come away with the ultimate goal of a championship. On the other hand, they have made a notable addition in the outfield and still have some question marks in the bullpen going into next season.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Source: Murphy, Goldy to play for US in Classic

Source: Murphy, Goldy to play for US in Classic

The United States added two more All-Stars to what is turning into a powerful national team roster for the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy and D-backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt have committed to play for Team USA in the Classic, set for March 2017, sources tell MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

Murphy and Goldschmidt are the last two National League Most Valuable Player runner-ups, with Goldschmidt placing second in the voting in 2015 and Murphy doing so this past season.

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Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

After season of highs, Nats' NLDS loss stung

After season of highs, Nats' NLDS loss stung

WASHINGTON -- Evaluating the Nationals' 2016 season is a difficult task. There were so many positives to take away from the year, even though it ultimately ended before they would have liked and left a bitter taste in their mouths.

Washington bounced back from an all-around disappointing 2015 season to win 95 games and the National League East crown for the third time in the past five seasons. The Nationals had a new manager, standout and historic performances from some of their biggest stars and the emergence of a few new stars.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.