3) Cleanup Duty: The Bullpen
There’s no doubt that the bullpen was the Nationals’ most glaring weakness in 2015. Apart from occasional bright moments from players like Matt Thornton, Blake Treinen and Felipe Rivero, the ‘pen was a disaster for most of the season and it was one of Rizzo’s most important tasks to address this winter.
Going into the offseason, many expected the Nationals to completely overhaul the bullpen that let them down in 2015. And three month into the offseason, that’s exactly what they’ve done.
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In what is probably the most exciting bullpen move the team made this offseason, the Nationals also acquired Trevor Gott from the Angels in the Yunel Escobar trade. Gott saw success in his first big league season in 2015, going 4-2 with a 3.02 ERA, and should only get better as he gains more experience. The 23-year-old right-hander is under team control until 2022, giving the Nationals a powerful young bullpen option for years to come.
With these additions, the Nationals should be able to make up for the loss of veterans Craig Stammen, Thornton and Casey Janssen. Furthermore, the team will no longer have to rely solely on youngsters like Blake Treinen, Matt Grace and Felipe Rivero in high-pressure situations.
While the bullpen still has some weaknesses — the Drew Storen trade cost the Nationals one of their best late-inning relievers, for example — the ‘pen looks far better today than it did at the end of the 2015 season.
Next: 4) With Bulk of the Work Done, Some Questions Remain