Washington Nationals Rumors: Aroldis Chapman Becomes Top Offseason Priority

The Washington Nationals are coming off of a 2016 season which saw them win the National League East Division title for the third time in five years. While that’s quite an accomplishment for general manager Mike Rizzo, 2016 also marked the third time in five years that the Nationals have been eliminated from the playoffs in the first round.

With most of the roster aging and Bryce Harper getting closer and closer to free agency, the window is closing for this current corps of Nationals to win the World Series. It also doesn’t help that the defending World Series Champion Chicago Cubs are young and built to win for the next three-to-five years.

In order to compete with the Cubs in 2017 and beyond, the Nationals must fix some holes this offseason. Those holes are currently at closer, catcher, center field, one or two spots in the starting rotation, and a couple of spots in the bullpen. For a team that’s expected to contend, that’s actually a lot to rectify in one offseason, but it there’s a general manager that can get it done, it’s Mike Rizzo.

So far this offseason, the Nationals have already been connected to Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale, according to the Inquisitr. Adding Sale would give Washington three aces in defending Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, two-time All-Star Stephen Strasburg, and five-time All-Star Chris Sale. That would certainly give the Nationals a leg up on the rest of the National League with three horses like that at the top of the rotation.

According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Washington Nationals have also entered the mix for the top free agent closer on the market, Aroldis Chapman. Chapman began the 2016 season with the New York Yankees before getting traded to the Chicago Cubs and going on to win the World Series.

Between the two teams, Chapman finished the 2016 regular season with 36 saves in 39 opportunities while posting a 1.55 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. The former Cincinnati Reds closer also struck out 90 batters while only walking 18 in 58 innings pitched. He also only allowed 32 hits and 10 earned runs in 59 appearances.

Chapman wasn’t quite as dominant in the postseason as he posted four saves while finishing with three blown saves. He ended with a 3.45 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 21 strikeouts in 21.2 innings pitched. Aroldis also allowed 11 hits, six walks, and six earned runs in 13 total appearances.

Washington attempted to trade for Chapman at the trade deadline before the Yankees ultimately sent him to the Cubs. New York was able to get a better haul of prospects from Chicago as opposed to what the Nationals could offer. Rizzo then moved on and made a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates for closer Mark Melancon who was lights-out for the Nationals on their way to the postseason.

While Melancon is certainly a capable major league closer, he doesn’t offer the same dominant stuff that Chapman possesses. Aroldis can get his fastball up to 105 mph while adding a wipeout slider that makes hitters look silly at times. Melancon relies heavily on his cutter which doesn’t strike a lot of hitters out. Instead, he relies on getting weak contact instead of overpowering stuff.

Rizzo has always been enamored with Aroldis ever since he entered the league and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Washington Nationals make a huge push for the Cuban defect. The only question will be whether the Nationals can beat out the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Francisco Giants for the services of Aroldis Chapman.

[Featured Image by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]

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