The Washington Nationals have been on the up and coming recently, but there is still one thing holding them back– the bullpen. Every Nats fan is either suffering from high blood pressure or stress induced anxiety as a result of watching the last three innings of any game this season. With a collective relief ERA of 6.11, the Nats rank dead last in MLB, and .4 points behind the second to last place Baltimore Orioles.
Fortunately, Mike Rizzo went shopping at the Trade Deadline and got three new relievers for the bullpen. Due to an injury, Javy Guerra is back on the 25 man roster, but he will likely be demoted once another reliever becomes available. Here’s a look at the new talent the Nats have to offer.
Elías came to the Nats from the Seattle Mariners along with Hunter Strickland in exchange for minor league pitchers Aaron Fletcher, Taylor Guilbeau, and Elvis Alvarado. His contract only extends until the end of the season, but he is not arbitration eligible until next winter. The 31-year-old lefty brings a career 3.92 ERA to a bullpen in need of veteran (not necessarily 42-year-old Fernando Rodney) stability.
However, Elías’s tenure with the Nats has not been off to a great start as he only pitched ⅔ of an inning before batting (still not clear why Manager Davey Martinez had him hit, but that’s a different issue altogether) and straining his hamstring on the way down the first baseline (why a man with less than 10 career at-bats decided to swing is also beyond understanding, but that’s for later). What was initially thought to just be a cramp, became a strain and put him on the 10 day Injured List. Hopefully, it’s only a 10 day injury and he can come back to help the bullpen next week.
Hudson was acquired in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays that sent minor leaguer Kyle Johnston to Toronto. He has appeared in 47 games this season, starting one and saving two. His season ERA is 2.94, which is almost a full point lower than his 3.92 career ERA. If Hudson is able to keep his ERA under three, he will be a valuable piece as the pennant race heats up.
The Virginia Beach native and Old Dominion University alum brings eight years of MLB experience to a bullpen in need of some stability. However, he is only under contract for this season, and will have to deal with the impending doom of not having a spot next season. If he can prove his worth as a one season rental, Rizzo should sign him ASAP (right after he extends Anthony Rendon, but I digress).
Nats fans probably remember Strickland from his infamous moment of hitting Bryce Harper with a pitch in May 2017 and provoking an all out brawl in alleged retaliation from when Harper “showed him up” by watching a home run in 2014.
Anyway, Strickland is now on the Nats, and Harper is not. In his two appearances with the Nats so far, he has not hit anyone. He also has not given up any runs, which is an amazing feat for someone coming out of the Nats bullpen twice in one series.
Strickland has not pitched much this season as he just came off the 60 day IL with a lat strain. He brings a career 2.96 ERA to a bullpen that at times has resembled a bunch of little leaguers. The 30-year-old righty’s contract terminates at the end of the season, and he is not arbitration eligible until 2020, so his performance over the next two months will dictate where he ends up next spring.
These three haven’t had much of a chance to prove their worth yet, but in all honesty, the bullpen can’t possibly get any worse, so this must be an improvement. As long as Elias’s hamstring heals in the next 10 days, Hudson keeps doing what he’s doing, and Strickland doesn’t intentionally hit any big name outfielders who play for Philadelphia, the bullpen should be on an upward trajectory. Martinez should be less stressed about who is pitching, and in turn that might give Sean Doolittle some rest and allow him to return to save only situations while the rest of the crew holds down the lead in the middle and late innings.