Nationals lose out on Howell to L.A.

Nationals lose out on Howell to L.A.
January 4, 2013, 11:30 pm
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The final free agent left-hander on the Nationals' radar is headed elsewhere.

J.P. Howell has come to terms on a one-year, $2.85 million contract with the Dodgers, according to multiple reports, electing to head west instead of coming to a Washington franchise that was interested in acquiring him.

Howell, 29, had become the Nationals' top left-handed target after they lost stalwart Sean Burnett to the Angels last month. Since then, they've also seen free agent Michael Gonzalez and the non-tendered Tom Gorzelanny sign with the Brewers.

With no other lefty relievers on the market that pique their interest, the Nationals face the possibility of entering spring training without a premier southpaw in their bullpen.

They did re-sign Zach Duke to a one-year deal, but the career starter will be used as a long reliever. They also signed former first-round pick Bill Bray to a minor-league contract, with an invitation to spring training.

General manager Mike Rizzo could still seek to acquire another left-hander via trade, especially if first baseman Adam LaRoche re-signs at some point and makes Michael Morse expendable.

Even if they don't add another lefty, though, the Nationals believe they can get by with a bullpen that still boasts several right-handers who have pitched well against hitters from the opposite side of the plate. Lefties hit just .170 last season against Tyler Clippard, .198 against Craig Stammen and .241 against Ryan Mattheus.