J.P. Howell Getty

Nationals targeting left-handed reliever J.P. Howell

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After watching Sean Burnett, Mike Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny all sign elsewhere this offseason, the Nationals are in the market for a left-handed reliever. The pickings are starting to thin out, but Dan Kolko of MASNSports.com reports that J.P. Howell remains the club’s top choice in free agency.

Howell, who turns 30 in April, posted a 3.04 ERA and 42/22 K/BB ratio over 50 1/3 innings this past season with the Rays. He has held left-handed batters to a .241/.323/.351 batting line and a .675 OPS during his career. Considering what some of the other left-handed relievers have received this offseason, it wouldn’t be surprising if he lands a multi-year contract.

As of now, Zach Duke is the only left-handed reliever on the Nationals’ 40-man roster. Bill Bray signed a minor league deal with the club earlier this offseason, but he was limited to just 14 relief appearances with the Reds this past season due to back and groin injuries.

Report: White Sox have made James Shields available in a trade

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 26:  James Shields #25 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field on July 26, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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Teams in need of starting pitching can call the White Sox about James Shields as the club has made him available in a trade, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and MLB Network reports.

A trade would allow Shields to land with his third team this season. The Padres traded Shields to the White Sox in early June for pitcher Erik Johnson and minor leaguer Fernando Tatis, Jr. Things haven’t gone better for him since leaving San Diego with a 4.28 ERA. In 10 starts with the White Sox, Shields has compiled a 5.17 ERA with a 29/25 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 innings.

Shields, 34, is owed $21 million in both 2017 and ’18, then has a $16 million club option for 2019 with a $2 million buyout.

The White Sox are teetering on the edge between being buyers and sellers. They entered play Wednesday on a four-game winning streak with a 50-50 record, eight games out of first place in the AL Central and six games out of the second AL Wild Card slot.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Wednesday evening’s action

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 22: Masahiro Tanaka #19 of the New York Yankees pitches in the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Yankee Stadium on July 22, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Wednesday gives us six afternoon games, leaving nine games for the evening. Masahiro Tanaka will start one of those games as the Yankees take on the Astros’ Lance McCullers in an 8:10 PM EDT start.

The Yankees went into the All-Star break an even 44-44, 7.5 games out of first place and looking like sellers. They have come into the second half winning 8 of 12 games, including their last three. The club has only managed to make up one game against the first-place Orioles in the AL East, but they are also only four games out of the second AL Wild Card slot.

Aroldis Chapman has already been shipped out, but the Yankees are also drawing trade interest in Andrew Miller, who has assumed the closer’s role. If the Yankees win tonight and perform well against the Rays in a three-game series in Tampa, the Bronx Bombers may enter the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline deciding to be competitive after all.

The rest of Wednesday evening’s action…

Colorado Rockies (Jon Gray) @ Baltimore Orioles (Dylan Bundy), 7:05 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (James Paxton) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Gerrit Cole), 7:05 PM EDT

St. Louis Cardinals (Adam Wainwright) @ New York Mets (Logan Verrett), 7:10 PM EDT

Chicago White Sox (Anthony Ranaudo) @ Chicago Cubs (Jason Hammel), 8:05 PM EDT

Oakland Athletics (Sean Manaea) @ Texas Rangers (Yu Darvish), 8:05 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Archie Bradley) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Jimmy Nelson), 8:10 PM EDT

Atlanta Braves (Mike Foltynewicz) @ Minnesota Twins (Tyler Duffey), 8:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Angels (Matt Shoemaker) @ Kansas City Royals (Danny Duffy), 8:15 PM EDT