When you hear the name Harper in baseball and Washington, you immediately think of the guy who now plays for the Phillies, and now that name will be attached to the newly acquired right-hander Ryne Harper who was acquired from the Twins for minor leaguer Hunter McMahon.
This 30-year-old is a finesse pitcher and joins a new look Nats bullpen with Will Harris on “spin rate” breaking pitch guys who don’t rely on high velo. Like Kyle Finnegan, the newly acquired Harper has paid his dues in the minor leagues with eight years of experience in Braves, Mariners and Twins organizations before he finally made his big league debut for the Twins last year. What Nats fans will like is his K/BB of 5.00 and a decent 1.178 WHIP in 61 games.
Harper was a DFA last week by the Twins when Josh Donaldson‘s contract became official and the Twins needed a roster spot, but they pulled Harper back to trade him to the Nats. Just like the Twins, the Harper acquisition now fills up the Nats 40-man roster at 40 men which will require the Nats to make corresponding moves prior to spring training if any additional 40-man players are acquired.
A crowded Nats bullpen is now more crowded. With three locks for the Opening Day roster with only Sean Doolittle, Daniel Hudson and Will Harris in, Harper will now compete with Hunter Strickland who could be DFA’d early in camp to free up cash (Nats would have to pay him 1/6th of his contract) and there is Finnegan, Tanner Rainey and Wander Suero all competing as the righties in the pen. Roenis Elias is the lone lefty in the ‘pen besides Doolittle making his chances near certain that he will make the club. The other wrinkle is Austin Voth and Joe Ross are out of options, and one of them could be the long-man in the 13-man bullpen.
Rizzo also re-signed veteran Javy Guerra on a minor league deal and he would most likely start the season in the minors as depth, and he has no options. Since Guerra was acquired on a minor league deal he can stay in the minors but if he comes up to the Nats, he cannot be sent back down unless he cleared waivers and accepted an assignment.
According to Roster Resource, Harper does have options so he could start the season in minors, and that gives the Nats some additional depth that the team lacked last year beyond Rainey in spring training as it turned out. Relievers like Austen Williams (18.00 WHIP), James Borque (7.500 WHIP), Aaron Barrett (3.857 WHIP), Kyle McGowin (1.625 WHIP), all struggled in very brief tenure with the 2019 Nats and each are still on the current 40-man roster and will be in Spring Training, but none are anticipated to be seriously considered for the Nats roster at Opening Day.
For the player the Nats traded for Harper, McMahon was the Nats 9th round pick in the 2019 draft out of Texas State. He did well between the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals and short-season Single-A Auburn and posted a combined 0.71 ERA, but Rizzo liked Harper more, clearly, and there you go. The trade is already official.