ith the 2017 MLB season roughly six weeks in, the Washington Nationals have gotten off to a solid start. Possessing a 25-17 record, they have built a six game lead over the second place Atlanta Braves and a 6.5 game lead on the third place New York Mets. Despite getting out to a promising start, the Nationals could very well own a much better record. While their lineup has been stellar, the Nationals’ bullpen has been a complete train-wreck to levels deemed virtually impossible. It has been their biggest liability. As a result, general manager Mike Rizzo and the Nationals will likely look for upgrades in their bullpen. Unlike in year’s past, they cannot wait until the trade deadline to find those upgrades. They must act with a sense of urgency when it comes to finding bullpen upgrades now instead of waiting until late July to make a move.
Washington Nationals Bullpen Upgrades: Washington Urgently Needs Quality Relievers
The numbers speak for themselves. With an abysmal 5.46 ERA as a unit and a .287 batting average against, the Nationals’ bullpen possesses arguably the worst bullpen in all of baseball. With Shawn Kelley, Blake Treinen, Joe Blanton, Oliver Perez, and Enny Romero practically serving as batting practice, the Nationals’ bullpen has performed at an unacceptable and embarrassing level for the rest of their ball club. For a team to have this big a quagmire in the bullpen (a facet of their team which was an asset a year ago) is absurd, but it will become even more puzzling if they opt to put off finding an upgrade until the summer.
While they do have a comfortable six game lead in the division, the Nationals’ bullpen either puts the game in jeopardy or finds a way to blow a late inning lead way too often. It has reached the point where manager Dusty Baker struggles to keep select arms in a set spot for back-to-back nights. If their bullpen was at the very least mediocre, the Nationals could have 30 wins under their belt, and they potentially would hold the best record in all of baseball.
To end their late inning disasters and to prevent the rest of the division from creeping up on them, the Nationals must get bullpen help as soon as possible.
Nationals Need Two Relievers, Possibly More
Luckily for Washington, there are plenty of viable late inning options on the trade market. One of these options is White Sox reliever David Robertson. The Nationals have been long linked to the White Sox closer and now a deal on their part is beginning to make all too much sense. With the White Sox looking to free themselves of Robertson’s contract, his price tag should not be all too high. Also, while he has been a consistent product in the ninth inning, Robertson has not been stellar the last few years. Recording an ERA over three over the last couple of seasons, Robertson hasn’t quite quite pitched to the dominant level he did back with the New York Yankees; however, he has produced at a more reliable level this year.
With a 2.81 ERA and just one blown save, Robertson has been reliable for the White Sox in 2017. His 2017 reliability, coupled with his success in the past, should motivate the Nationals to finally pull the trigger on a deal. While Washington does not have a plethora of top-tier prospects, they can easily make a deal with the White Sox. The Nationals could potentially offer pitching prospect Austin Voth, as well as catching prospect Raudy Read.
While acquiring Robertson would provide the Nationals with a ninth inning solution, his presence alone will not fix their bullpen.
if the Nationals are to make their bullpen respectable instead of a liability, they will need to acquire at least two relievers. Acquiring Kelvin Herrera could pay dividends.
Herrera, like Robertson, would not require the Nationals’ to decimate their farm system. In year’s past, Herrera has been a force in the back end of the Royals bullpen. By pitching in both save and non save situations, Herrera has been a versatile arm for Kansas City. Unlike his past few campaigns, Herrera has struggled in 2017.Herrera currently owns a 4.50 ERA and has been extremely shaky in the late innings. To put that in perspective, Herrera recorded ERA’s of 1.41, 2.71, and 2.75 the past three seasons. His inability to do so in 2017 will bring his trade value down a bit, allowing the Nationals to swoop in and make a deal.
While he has struggled so far in 2017, a change of scenery could be just what the doctor ordered for Herrera, as it could allow him to pitch like his old self on a team bound to make a deep playoff run. The Nationals could potentially send Treinen, as well as outfielder Rafael Bautista, to Kansas City in exchange for Herrera.
While his rocky 2017 start could be frightening, Herrera has shown the ability to get big outs in the late innings, which makes a roll of the dice on him worth it for the Nationals.
Nationals Must Act With A Sense Of Urgency
The Nationals’ bullpen has been been their Achilles heal in 2017, and it is a problem that could ultimately keep them out of the NLCS. The bullpen could even put their playoff status in jeopardy. The Nationals must act with a sense of urgency when it comes to finding bullpen upgrades. Failure to do so could bring Washington’s season to an early end.