The Washington Nationals, since my last article, have gone on an 11-4 run, and are in the midst of their best stretch of baseball of the year. While much has gone right for the Nats lately, something still keeping the team back is the bullpen. Bad bullpens have long plagued the Nats, and have played a key role in keeping the club from winning a postseason series. Whether the Nats get back in the race is a different story, but something that must been shored up is the bullpen. While I would like to address the bullpen for 2020, I feel like the club, this season, must address its bullpen woes by extracting quality arms that could help the club contend not just in 2019, but for the future.
For this club to go anywhere, the bullpen must become a strength. The bullpen lacks the fire that intimidates opposing lineups and shortens games. With the starting pitching in tact, the Nats must attack an area that has already cost them numerous games this season. The middle innings are key, and the Nats lack a true lock-down reliever to pair alongside with Sean Doolittle. In an effort to better the ballclub, here are a few moves that I believe could turn the Nats season around, but also help the future.
Royals acquire: OF Adam Eaton
Nationals acquire: RHP Jorge Lopez, RHP Janser Lara
Brewers acquire: 1B Matt Adams
Nationals acquire: RHP Adrian Houser
Indians acquire: 2B Brian Dozier
Nationals acquire: RHP Nick Wittgren, RHP James Karinchak
In trading away three position players in Adam Eaton, Matt Adams, and Brian Dozier, you take a hit offensively, but they can all be replaced. Adams and Dozier, both on 1-year contracts, are logical trade candidates, and can help shore up some weaknesses in the short-term. The outfield may become a bit more scattered after the Eaton trade, but it would give the Nats a chance to play Soto in left, and Robles in right, while targeting a center fielder through trade or free agency. Michael A. Taylor can fill in for the remainder of the year if the Nats are out of the race, and get another look to see if he can be a regular out there. If that doesn’t work out, there is no harm for giving Taylor another shot, as center field stands to be an area the club targets this offseason.
The arms the Nats acquire in these proposed deals all stand to play a big role in the Nats current and future bullpens. Jorge Lopez, for example, has struggled this year as a starter for the Royals, but if you look at the small sample size he had last year with the Brewers coming out of the bullpen, he had an ERA of 2.25, but struggled with command with a 15:13 K/BB rate. Taking a chance on Lopez would stand to be a good idea for the Nats who desperately need as much bullpen help they can get. The other part of the deal is Janser Lara, who is already being groomed as a reliever with his 100-plus mile per hour heater. Definitely a guy the Nats would love to have at the back end of their bullpen. Adrian Houser of the Brewers is also an intriguing arm as he has done well in his limited sample size pitching in the show the last couple of seasons. Only 26 years of age, Houser is a bit on the older side of a player who hasn’t yet spent a full year in the big leagues, but his numbers coming out of the bullpen are becoming harder to ignore. The Dozier deal to the Indians is an old school baseball trade as the Nats pick up an arm they could immediately plug in to the bullpen in Nick Wittgren, but also another piece in righty James Karinchak, who is on the fast-track to the show with his high 90’s heater and 12-to-6 curveball. Command has plagued Karinchak, but you simply can’t pass on a guy with electric stuff. Bullpens are such a fickle thing, but it’s an area you must improve if your club is to make a deep run into October. Relying on veteran arms to rekindle past success has not worked for Washington, and there stands to be change when it comes to the construction of the bullpen.
Written by Ben Favela