Bruney, Willingham and more

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Right-hander Brian Bruney, who the Nationals acquired from the Yankees for a player to be named later today, was on general manager Mike Rizzo’s radar before the Winter Meetings. And when the Yankees decided to move the hard-throwing right-hander, the Nationals jumped on the deal, acquiring Bruney for a player to be named later.

Manager Jim Riggleman said Rizzo had his eye on Bruney, who was with the Diamondbacks while Rizzo was there. He’ll be in the mix to be a late-inning option, and possibly the closer for the Nationals; Riggleman said the closer job is “undetermined” right now. Mike MacDougal, who was the closer last season, stands a chance of being non-tendered this weekend.

“I think that’s a healthy situation, to have some competition out there, and maybe the hot hand takes it,” Riggleman said. “But who knows, by the time we leave these meetings in Indianapolis or somewhere during the course of the winter, maybe something happens where we identify one person who’s going to be a closer. But I think that this gives us another option to look at through Spring Training to see how it evolves.”

Other highlights from the day so far:

—Riggleman said Cristian Guzman’s move to second base isn’t definite yet, hinging on the possibility the Nats acquire a natural second baseman at some point this offseason.

—Left fielder Josh Willingham has been the subject of quite a few rumors here today—the Mets are reportedly among a handful of teams interested—but Riggleman said the Nats aren’t interested in trading him. Unless, of course, they got a big offer. A legitimate sign that the left fielder is staying or pre-trade posturing? You decide. Here’s the quote from Riggleman:

“We don’t have any desire to move Willingham, believe me. But he’s a guy that a lot of teams call about because he’s not — doesn’t have an exorbitant salary. He does have a history of production. So teams are going to be interested in him. My guess is that he’ll be our left fielder next year, but again, between now and opening day, if somebody overwhelmed you with somebody I guess you’ve got to listen.”

—Heard a couple things in the lobby: People familiar with the Nats expect another release or two this week in addition to the Saul Rivera move, to make room for a Rule 5 pick or a trade. And if Guzman doesn’t work out at second base, it’s not definite that he’d start at short; it’s possible he could start the year in the minors. We’re a long way from having the answer to that question yet, but suffice it to say the Nats are looking at all their options with the 32-year-old shortstop, who is due to make $8 million next year.

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