The Washington Nationals bolstered the back-end of their bullpen in their lone trade deadline deal, acquiring Brandon Kintzler.
The Washington Nationals made a splash shortly before the 4 pm non-waiver trade deadline on Monday afternoon, acquiring reliever Brandon Kintzler from the Minnesota Twins. While the Nats didn’t get one of the sexy names like Zach Britton or Brad Hand, Kintzler is an excellent acquisition.
Kintzler, who is 28-for-32 in save opportunities this year, was putting together a phenomenal season as the Twins’ closer. Named an All-Star for the first time in his career, he was one of the best closers in baseball and arguably the top reliever on the move this trade deadline.
Once a division-two athlete at Dixie State and 40th round draft pick, Kintzler has enjoyed an outstanding eight-year MLB career. After breaking into the league with Milwaukee in 2010, he has pitched to a 3.24 ERA in 271 career appearances.
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While Kintzler has always been a solid reliever, he has become elite in Minnesota. Since earning the closer’s role last season, he is 45-for-52 in save opportunities and has pitched to a 2.98 ERA over the past two seasons.
In order to acquire Kintzler, the Nats had to part with pitching prospect Tyler Watson. Watson, a 20-year-old starting pitcher, had pitched to a 4.35 ERA in 18 games for Low-A Hagerstown. According to MLB Pipeline, Watson is now the Twins’ 18th-best prospect.
For more on this trade and everything else from around the league, check out our trade deadline DoDCast:
With the acquisition of Kintzler, the Nats now have the “three-headed monster” that
desired. Between Kintzler,
, the Nats have three excellent relievers, all with closing experience, to get outs late in games.
Despite the fact that Kintzler has the third-most saves in the MLB this year, he may not close for the Nats. Most closers possess overpowering stuff and obtain most of their outs via the strikeout. However, Kintzler pitches to contact and has the sixth-lowest strikeout rate of all qualified relievers.
Of the Nats’ big three relievers, Kintzler’s K/9 is by far the lowest. At 5.36, he’s behind both Madson (9.34) and Doolittle (12.18). While strikeouts aren’t a necessity for closers, see Mark Melancon, they are prevalent more often than not.
Following the trade, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo wouldn’t declare a closer and said they will experiment to see who fits best where. Having three lights-out relievers in the back-end of the bullpen and not knowing who will close is an excellent problem to have and the Nationals are in the perfect situation to figure it out. With a 14 game lead in the NL East, the Nats have some time to experiment with different roles.
Before the Kintzler trade, Madson was setting up for Doolittle, which worked well. Doolittle, who was a bit shaky in his first few appearances with the Nats, has settled in and utilized his secondary pitches more.
Tim Kurkjian has also reported that Doolittle is unavailable to pitch three days in a row due to his injury history. As a closer, this is sometimes necessary so it helps to have Kintzler also on the team. If the Nats elect to keep Doolittle in the closer’s role, Kintzler can primarily be a setup man and close when Doolittle is unavailable.
Kintzler, a sinkerballer, would slot nicely into a setup role. He could pitch the seventh inning before Madson and Doolittle, or he could be used in a fireman’s role similar to Blake Treinen last year.
By carrying three relievers with closing experience, the Nats’ bullpen is extremely versatile. This strategy worked well for the Cleveland Indians last season, with Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw, and Cody Allen all closing games. Kintzler has been an elite closer this year, but having Doolittle also in the bullpen allows the Nats to use Kintzler earlier in the game if needed, similar to Miller.
The big three in the back-end of the bullpen along with Matt Albers, Enny Romero, and Matt Grace have suddenly transformed the Nats’ bullpen from an extreme weakness to a strength. While Kintzler’s role is not yet known, he adds versatility and is another lights-out reliever that Dusty Baker now has at his disposal.