Nationals: Biggest Takeaways from 7-6 Loss in Cleveland

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Jul 26, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon (58) walks off the field during a pitching change in the ninth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 26, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon (58) walks off the field during a pitching change in the ninth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /
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May 26, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker (12) and pitching coach Mike Maddux (51) stand at the top of the dugout during the eighth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Nationals Park. Washington Nationals defeated St. Louis Cardinals 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

The Nats Need Some Bullpen Help

At first glance, all seems to be well for the relief corps in Washington. Their bullpen ERA of 3.05 ranks fourth in the majors and Jonathan Papelbon is eighth in the National League in saves. However, with a closer look—no pun intended—there are some serious problems. Papelbon’s 4.18 ERA is the highest mark of any reliever with at least 20 save opportunities, and his 8.4 K/9 ranks 59th among relievers with at least 20 innings pitched.

The problem for the Nats is if they’re going to go out and trade for an established closer, he’s going to come at a high price. They lost out on the Aroldis Chapman sweepstakes, who was shipped to Chicago for three top prospects and an established major leaguer in Adam Warren. Washington was unwilling to meet that price for a two-month rental, and no one can blame them for it. Now, the top relievers left are the Yankees’ Andrew Miller and Royals’ Wade Davis, who have an additional year of control than Chapman but even higher price tags.

Provided that the Nationals go for it, they will almost certainly have to give up one of their top prospects. Trea Turner is contributing in the big leagues right now, leaving either Reynaldo Lopez or Lucas Giolito as the likely candidates. If Mike Rizzo and Co. decides a closer isn’t worth their coveted arms, look for them to dive into the Jeremy Jeffress and Jeanmar Gomez markets to throw a more reliable set up man into the mix.

The time is now for the Nats to go all-in on their current roster. While avoiding Chapman was the smart decision, both Davis and Miller have team control through next season. A trade will cut deep into their farm system, but it will solve a handful of problems for their major league club right now.

Next: Providing the Spark

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