J.P. Howell and Scott Downs have both been mentioned as possible targets for the Nationals within the last few days, and it appears that Washington may be narrowing its focus on the pair of southpaws. According to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark (Twitter link), if the Nats sign a free agent left-handed reliever, it will likely be either Howell or Downs.
Washington had also been linked to Eric O'Flaherty, but other clubs are getting the sense that O'Flaherty will probably return to the Braves, says Stark. The lefty, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, had indicated earlier today that he'd be open to signing anywhere, including Washington.
Howell, 30, is coming off an excellent season in Los Angeles, where he posted a 2.03 ERA in 62 innings for the Dodgers. Downs, 37, was his usual effective self in 2013 as well, recording a 2.49 ERA in 68 total appearances for the Angels and Braves. It was the seventh straight season that Downs has posted an ERA of 3.15 or better.