The Washington Nationals strengthen their bullpen Tuesday signing veteran reliever Joe Blanton to a deal. What will his role be?
In yet another spring training score for the Washington Nationals signed reliever Joe Blanton to a one-year deal. Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post says the deal is contingent of Blanton passing his physical.
The veteran pitcher reportedly will make $4 million in base salary with incentive, according to Ken Rosenthal. Jon Heyman tells us some money will be deferred.
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A starter for years, Blanton moved to the pen after missing the entire 2014 season following his second Tommy John surgery. Last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he was fantastic.
In 75 games, Blanton went 7-2 with a 2.48 ERA. With a stingy WHIP of 1.013 and allowing 6.2 hits-per-9, he was an integral part of a club that won the National League West division and defeated the Nats in their NL Division Series.
In his four games against Washington, he pitched five shout innings, surrendering one hit and fanning five. The Chicago Cubs racked Blanton for seven runs in the NLCS, but Chicago was the best team in baseball.
A four-pitch pitcher, Blanton’s primary pitch is the slider now, tossing it 38.9 percent of the time last year. He mixes in a 91-mph fastball—says Fangraphs—30 percent of his pitches and mixes in a curve and change.
His control is good, striking out 3.08 for every walk last year and he will fan hitters. Blanton’s 9.0 K/9 rate was a career high along with a .240 BABip to match. With his years of pitching, he knows how to mix his pitches and where to hit his spots.
As the Nationals continue to address their perceived depth issues, Blanton adds more insurance to a bullpen now flush with options. Although likely not to vie for the closer’s role, he could be the solution either in the seventh or eighth inning.
With Dusty Baker a big fan of veteran players, he can now lean on a proven one no matter what role Blanton earns. He has the skill set to be the primary setup man, for sure. But, Sammy Solis and Koda Glover figure to fight for both those roles.
If you were concerned the Nats were not favored to win the NL East before, the signing of Blanton eases those. Yes, there is still no definitive closer, but the bullpen is a strong unit.
How those cards play out will determine how well the start of the 2017 season goes. GM Mike Rizzo struck gold again as a good team is now better.