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Nationals Off To Rough Start At Winter Meetings, Lose Mark Melancon To Giants

December 6, 2016
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The Washington Nationals got off to a rough start on the first day of the MLB Winter Meetings Dec. 5 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, located just south of Nationals Park.

During the day, general manager Mike Rizzo learned closer Mark Melancon, acquired in a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates in late July, signed as a free agent with the San Francisco Giants. Melancon combined to save 47 games last year during time with Pittsburgh and Washington. 

"We gave an offer we felt was market value," Rizzo said. "He is one of the elite closers in the game and a great teammate. At the end of the day, the Giants offered him more, and he took the deal. That is what free agency is all about."  

Melancon's deal is reportedly for four years at $62 million.

Rizzo also had to answer questions about right fielder Bryce Harper after the USA Today reported his agent, Scott Boras, is seeking a contract of $400 million for his client. Harper will be a free agent after the 2018 season.

Has Rizzo begun extension talks with Boras about Harper?

"I am not going to answer those type of questions," said Rizzo, standing outside of his 11th floor suite. "Those are private."

The Nationals appeared to have struck out on acquiring Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen.

Washington, according to published reports, was in talks with the Pirates Dec. 2, but now the Texas Rangers appear to have shown interest in McCutchen.

If the Nationals get a new center fielder, they would likely move Trea Turner to shortstop, his natural position.

But Washington did make a deal before the winter meetings began, acquiring catcher Derek Norris in a trade with the San Diego Padres Dec. 2 in exchange for a minor league pitcher.

Norris was drafted by the Nationals in 2007 in the fourth round and worked his way up the minor league ladder, reaching Double-A Harrisburg in 2011.

He was one of the top prospects in the system when he was traded in December 2011 as part of a package to the Oakland A's for veteran pitcher Gio Gonzalez.

Norris made his big league debut with Oakland in 2012, and then was traded to the Padres prior to the 2015 season.

"The skill set is there," Rizzo said of Norris. "We know what makes him tick. We know the kid well."

Norris slumped to a .186 batting average last season, but the Nationals hope he can bounce back and perhaps be an everyday player in 2017, with Jose Lobaton again serving as the backup.

Rizzo may make a deal before the winter meetings end Dec. 8, but he also likes his team now.

"We have a good nucleus of ballclub right now," Rizzo said. "We are coming off a 95-win season. We think we have a good team. We have a great farm system. We like our chances. We like our chances today. We like our chances long term."