You just knew Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo was going to make a deal, and leading up to this year’s only trade deadline at 4pm, the Nationals made their moves. In fact when everything was said and done they traded for three relievers.
His first move of the day is for Daniel Hudson who is a big right-hander from Virginia Beach. Hudson was with the Blue Jays and last season was with the Dodgers. He is having one of his best seasons since 2011 as he has a 3.00 ERA and averaging one strikeout per inning with a WHIP of 1.271. He could assume a “stopper” role as he has stranded 21 of the 22 baserunners he has inherited this year which is the opposite of what Kyle Barraclough did. His last two outings were not good which might have dropped his value, but his fastball sits at 96 mph and he can touch 98 and throws a slider and changeup. The Nats sent Kyle Johnston to the Blue Jays. In addition, Rizzo got the lefty arm he was looking for, but is going for a change of scenery reliever in Roenis Elias. As the closer for the Mariners, he has struggled to a 4.40 ERA with an 8.6 K/9 but a 3.3 BB/9. The former starter from Cuba turns 31-years-old tomorrow and is under team control for the next two seasons. He throws a 94-95 fastball, a curveball and a changeup. He has one of the best changeups in baseball. The Nats give up Taylor Gillbeau and Elvis Alvarado for Elias.
The Nats got a familiar name in Hunter Strickland who had a history with Bryce Harper that started a brawl. He was also with the Mariners but has missed most of the season with an injury to his latisimus dorsi (lat) and was on the 60-day IL. The Nats gave the Mariners the left-handed Aaron Fletcher. This is more of a head scratcher type of move.
Earlier in the day, Rizzo said, “We’ve been close to a couple of deals that have not come to fruition yet” and “We’re not going to make a bad trade just to make a trade.”
The Nationals have been linked to several bullpen arms including Shane Greene, Alex Colome, Ken Giles, and we reported that the Alex Colome rumors were not accurate. We also reported that the Nats were looking at Ian Kennedy and Drew Pomeranz here and on Twitter. In the end, Giles, Colome, Will Smith, Edwin Diaz, Felipe Vazquez, Kirby Yates, and some other top arms that were discussed in rumors were never traded. The biggest name to move in the reliever market was Shane Greene, but his peripherals had many thinking he could be due to for a hard landing in the real world of regressing to the mean especially as he is in a postseason chase. The Tigers demanded top prospects for him, and all teams said “no” except for the Braves who own the second worst bullpen stats since the All-Star break.
Many Nats fans were shocked that Greene went to the Braves who certainty had the prospects to trade, and as you can see from the stats they were perhaps in a more precarious situation than the Nationals in their bullpen.
Hearing from source that Ian Kennedy and some Diamondbacks could fit if the dollars work for the #Nats. Names mentioned by others include Shane Greene and Ken Giles. Nats also widened their search to 8th inning setup men.
— Talk Nats ⚾ (@TalkNats2) July 29, 2019
Of course, we had hoped that Mike Rizzo was going to make moves earlier rather than later to shore up the bullpen, the bench and the fifth starter spot as we outlined here. Sure, easier said than done.
“The fact that we gave up nobody in our top 20 prospect list was important to us,” Rizzo said. “We stayed under the CBT which was important to us, but most important was that we’ve improved our baseball team with three really good relief pitchers, two of them that we control for the long haul. And it shows the guys that we appreciate how we’ve been playing. ‘We see you. We believe it. And we’re all in it for the long haul.’”
The evaluators at MLB Network, ESPN, and USA Today all felt the Nats were among the winners in trade deadline acquisitions today as Rizzo got three upgrades to bridge the bullpen to Sean Doolittle while Rizzo did not give up any top prospects, and presumably stayed under the CBT threshold. Of course in theory it looks great, the rest is to see this group shine in real game situations. The relievers and their catchers must acclimate seamlessly with little time to get to know each other.
“We got a couple controllable relievers [Elías and Strickland],” Rizzo said. “We upgraded ourselves. . . . We are excited to take this road trip and really step on the gas.”
Step on the gas indeed as the season is exactly two-thirds complete, and as Stephen Strasburg said, it’s a sprint now to the finish.
On the housecleaning side to make room for these three new relievers, the Nationals have DFA’d Michael Blazek and Javy Guerra. In addition, the Nats moved Jonny Venters to the 60-day DL to open up a 40-man spot indicating they might option a player to the minors, and they do not have to make that move immediately. Could that be Adrian Sanchez or could it be a bullpen arm is optioned like Wander Suero or Tanner Rainey or do the Nats DFA another lefty in the bullpen? There are other options like a 10-day IL move or possibly sending Erick Fedde down which could buy a few days until the team needs a fifth starter on Tuesday. Sure, at that time another roster move would need to be made and you see what alternatives you have at that time.