Washington Nationals: Bullpen help on the way in Doolittle and Madson

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 06: Sean Doolittle
OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 06: Sean Doolittle /

The Washington Nationals were finally able to address their bullpen issues, acquiring Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from Oakland.

The Washington Nationals have had one of the worst bullpens in the league this season, but they have finally made a trade to attempt to fix it. The Nats and A’s, frequent trade partners over the last several years, were able to agree to yet another trade. The Nats have acquired Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson in exchange for Blake Treinen, Sheldon Neuse, and Jesus Luzardo.

Doolittle, a 30-year-old lefty, will most likely become the Nats’ closer. He has an excellent track record and over the course of his six-year MLB career, he has a 3.09 ERA. He has been putting together yet another outstanding season, pitching to a 3.38 ERA in 23 games. Although he is capable of retiring any hitter, he is exceptionally tough on lefties. In his 23 games this season, he has yet to allow a hit to a left-handed hitter.

In addition to being an elite reliever, Doolittle has an extremely team-friendly contract. He is under team control through 2020 and is very affordable. The icing on the cake in his contract is the fact that he has club options in 2019 and 2020, so if for some reason the Nats decide they don’t want him anymore, they can decline his option.

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Madson, a 36-year-old righty, will also fill a late innings role. He has put together a tremendous career, pitching to a 3.40 ERA in 12 seasons. At 36 years old, Madson is still shutting down hitters, pitching to a 2.06 ERA in 40 games this season.

The Nats now have multiple closer options because Madson is also capable of closing and has 86 career saves. This is huge for the Nats because if Doolittle gets injured or fatigued, Madson is able to step in and close. For a team that has struggled tremendously to find a reliable closer, acquiring two pitchers with closing experience is an excellent move.

Madson also has phenomenal postseason experience. In 42 postseason appearances, he has pitched to a 2.91 ERA. That is huge for a team who’s looking to win their first postseason series. Although Madson’s contract isn’t as team-friendly as Doolittle’s, it is still reasonable for a pitcher with his experience and talent.

In order to acquire players, you must also give up players. In this case, the Nats parted ways with Treinen and two prospects, Neuse and Luzardo.

Treinen, who began the year as the Nats’ closer, has pitched well lately. His use of his triple-digit sinker, paired with a fastball, slider, and change-up is nearly unhittable when he is on. Unfortunately for the Nats, it seemed he didn’t have his best stuff for most of this season, struggling in save situations especially.

After being acquired from Oakland in 2013, Treinen pitched very well throughout his four-year Nats career. In Treinen, the A’s are acquiring a young, controllable reliever who’s oozing with talent and potential.

Neuse, a 22-year-old third baseman, will also be heading to the A’s organization. After being selected in the second round of last year’s draft, he has developed well. In Single-A Hagerstown this season, he has hit .291 with nine homers while typically batting in the heart of the lineup.

Luzardo, a 19-year-old starting pitcher, is most likely the better prospect heading to Oakland in this deal. He was a third round draft pick last season, and has pitched to a 1.32 ERA in three starts for the GCL Nationals this season. Although he is an intriguing prospect, he is still years away from making an impact at the big-league level. Some believe that the Nats’ window to win is closing, so Doolittle and Madson will benefit the Nats more than Luzardo.

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In Doolittle and Madson, the Nationals are acquiring two elite relievers who both have closing experience and reasonable contracts. Although they had to part ways with Treinen and two prospects, this was an excellent trade and will immediately address a huge need. To make this trade even more impressive, Mike Rizzo was able to acquire two impact relievers without trading any of the Nats’ top prospects. It appears the days of watching a dreadful Nats bullpen could finally be behind us.