Two weeks ago, the Washington Nationals had the worst bullpen in baseball. Now, they have multiple dominant relievers with ninth-inning experience. The Nationals continued to rebuild their bullpen Monday, acquiring reliever Brandon Kintzler from the Minnesota Twins.
Kintzler, 32, is the third reliever the Nationals have traded for over the past two weeks. The team also acquired Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson in a package deal with the Oakland Athletics. In 45 1/3 innings, the right-handed Kintzler has a 2.78 ERA. Unlike Madson and Doolittle, Kintzler will be a free-agent at the end of the season.
In exchange, the Nationals will send minor-league lefty Tyler Watson to Minnesota. Watson, 20, has a 4.35 ERA over 93 innings at Single-A. He ranked as the team’s No. 27 prospect at the beginning of the season, according to Baseball America.
The move is yet another indication that the Nationals believe their time in now. With superstar Bryce Harper set to become a free-agent following the 2018 season, the Nationals realize their window of contention is getting smaller. Instead of trying to wait it out and hope their current stable of relievers would figure things out, the team got aggressive and picked up three possible closers for the stretch run.
At the time of the deal with the A’s, Nationals’ relievers ranked dead last with a -0.9 wFAR. The team’s bullpen had combined for a 5.34 ERA. Things have already improved. The Nationals now have a -0.1 fWAR and a 5.07 ERA. While those changes seem minimal, it takes quite a bit to move those figures at this point in the year.
That’s going to make it tough to evaluate the Nationals bullpen moving forward. Collectively, it’s hard to expect their numbers to suddenly vault into the top-15. But consider the team’s hierarchy of relievers now. Doolittle, Madson and Kintzler will replace Koda Glover, Matt Albers and Oliver Perez as the primary options out of the pen when the game is on the line. That’s a significant difference.
The move helps the Nationals keep the pace in a dominant National League. Both the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers made big moves to solidify their clubs at the deadline. Chicago picked up both Jose Quintana and Justin Wilson, while Los Angeles got Yu Darvish and Tony Watson. After revamping its bullpen, Washington now has the pieces to go toe-to-toe with either club in the playoffs.
Nothing is guaranteed in the postseason, but at least the bullpen gives the Nationals a fighting chance now. That wasn’t the case two weeks ago.
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