One of the areas the Washington Nationals will look to improve entering the 2014 season is the bullpen.
Many of the team's relievers struggled for much of the 2013 season, and that played a key role in the club's missing the playoffs.
One of the problems was that Washington broke spring training with Zach Duke as the only left-hander in the bullpen, forcing manager Davey Johnson to come up with creative ways to get the most effective matchups. As a result, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo could look to bolster his staff this offseason. The team could use another lefty and possibly add another long reliever.
On the bright side, closer Rafael Soriano, who was acquired as a free agent before the 2013 season, finished with 43 saves out of 49 chances. He will once again be the closer and could possibly earn an extension with one year left on his contract.
Right-hander Drew Storen lost his job as closer to Soriano, struggled through parts of the season and was sent down to the Triple-A Syracuse in July. But Storen bounced back when he returned in August, finishing with a 1.40 ERA during his final 21 appearances. He could also be a valuable trade chip for a team that needs someone with experience as a closer.
Another player Washington will watch closely is righty Ryan Mattheus. He entered the season with high expectations, but broke his right hand in May when he punched a locker in frustration following an outing in San Diego. Mattheus will look to rebound this season after finishing 0-2 with a 6.37 ERA in 35.1 innings in 2013.
The Nationals did add a couple of left-handers midway through the season in Ian Krol and Fernando Abad. Each of those players could need a strong spring training to make the major league roster. In limited action, Krol, who was picked up from Oakland as part of the Michael Morse deal with Seattle, was 2-1 with a 3.95 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 27.1 innings. Abad, who was signed to a minor league deal after pitching for Houston, went 0-3 with a 3.35 ERA in 37.2 innings.
Righty Erik Davis, who was also a late call-up in September, could boost his stock as a middle reliever with a strong spring training. Davis appeared in 8.2 innings and was 0-1 with a 3.12 ERA.
Xavier Cedeno, another left-handed option, was a late addition to the bullpen with a September promotion.
The Nationals will likely add a free agent at some point during the offseason. One of the intriguing names is Boone Logan, who appeared in 61 games with a 3.23 ERA for the Yankees during the 2013 season. Another possible addition is Javier Lopez, who was solid for the Giants during 69 appearances in 2013 with a save and a 1.83 ERA. According to multiple reports, Washington has already spoken to the agents for both of those players.