The Washington Nationals’ has a bullpen ERA of 5.21 — abysmal to say the least. By failing to consistently get batters out in the late innings and limit damage on a near everyday basis, the Nationals’ bullpen has established itself as one of the worst in the majors.
However, what may be even more puzzling than their bullpen’s inability to finish out games, is general manager Mike Rizzo not making any transactions to help aid their woes. If and when Rizzo does so though, he must acquire more than one reliever, as acquiring just a closer wouldn't fix the bullpen as a whole.
While going out and pursuing a top flight closer like the Tampa Rays’ closer Alex Colome is intriguing, the Nationals cannot afford to decimate their farm system even more than they already have. With top pitching prospects Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, as well as 2015 first-round pick Dane Dunning being shipped off to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Adam Eaton, the Nationals aren't armed with the same assets they were last season; that makes giving up a heavy haul for a top notch ninth inning upgrade tough to maneuver.
However, while getting an elite closer like Colome would do wonders for the Nationals in the ninth inning, they need to go out and acquire multiple relievers, not just one — which getting Colome would restrict them from doing.
When it comes to finding late inning solutions, the obvious name that comes to mind is David Robertson. The closer for the Chicago White Sox has been long linked to the Nationals and a deal makes more sense now than ever.
In fact, according to USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale, the White Sox were willing to ship Robertson to the Nationals for southpaw Jesus Luzardo and minor league infielder Drew Ward. In addition to taking back the small package of Luzardo and Ward, the White Sox were also willing to eat half of the remaining $25 million on Robertson's deal; the Nationals though, pulled the plug on the reported deal.
With their bullpen freefalling, the Nationals need to pursue that deal yet again, as acquiring Robertson has become a necessity.
While not quite the force that Colome is, Robertson is a proven arm. Throughout the duration of his career, Robertson has been a reliable arm in the late innings, as both a setup man and closer. With the New York Yankees, he was for the most part, a setup man until Mariano Rivera retired — where he then took the reins at closer. However, after closing for New York for a brief year, Robertson bolted to the Windy City in 2015.
In his first two years with them, Robertson was solid, but not great. Finishing the year with a 3.41 ERA while blowing seven save opportunities, Robertson was productive, but not stellar in the ninth inning; the same goes for his second year with them. In 2016, Robertson finished the year with a 3.47 ERA, while blowing seven saves yet again, after enduring a lackluster first half. However, he has been getting the job done more consistently this year.
Converting 10 out of 11 save opportunities, Robertson has been a more reliable product in the ninth inning for the White Sox. With that in mind, the Nationals should pounce on a deal for him, as acquiring him would provide them with their ninth inning solution.
Acquiring Robertson though, will not be enough for the Nationals bullpen.
While finding a closer is a necessity, the Nationals need to acquire a number of arms in addition to a ninth inning solution. One name to keep an eye for such help is the Royals’ Kelvin Herrera.
Herrera has been used in both setup and save situations with the Royals in year’s past. That late inning versatility would bode well with the Nationals. For a team in need of a bullpen revamp, acquiring guys like Herrera who can pitch both the eighth and ninth would do wonders. However, while his versatility is valuable, Herrera has not been himself in 2017 thus far.
Possessing a 4.94 ERA, Herrera has not been his reliable self this year. However, given that he’s hitting the free agent market this summer, coupled with his current struggles, Herrera shouldn't be a costly get for the Nationals. While they’d be banking on him bouncing back in the second half of the season, it would be a risk worth taking for a team in dire need of new faces in its bullpen. Also, while his struggles are a bit worrying, the Nationals would still be better off with a struggling Herrera in setup situations than Shawn Kelley and Blake Treinen.
In addition to snatching Robertson and Herrera, another name for the Nationals to keep close tabs on is lefty Brad Hand — who the San Diego Padres are reportedly shopping.
The Nationals could use his southpaw presence. Already striking out 47 batters just 2 1/2 months into the season, while posting a 2.92 ERA, Hand has been an asset out of the pen for the Padres.
Aside from Enny Romero, the Nationals haven't seen a great deal of success from their lefties out of the bullpen. With Sammy Solis being in and out of the 25-man roster and veteran Oliver Perez struggling, acquiring Hand could grant the Nationals with a reliable lefty specialist.
By acquiring Hand, as well as Robertson and potentially Herrera, the Nationals would be getting the bullpen help they’ve been in dire need of. They’d also be doing themselves a favor by not putting all of their eggs in one basket and spreading out the talent; doing so will do wonders for their pen.