Washington Nationals: Jared Hughes a possible free agent target

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MILWAUKEE, WI - AUGUST 15: Jared Hughes
MILWAUKEE, WI - AUGUST 15: Jared Hughes /
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The Washington Nationals are currently in need of a couple relievers. Jared Hughes was non-tendered on Friday, and could be a fit with the Nats.

The Washington Nationals had one of the best bullpens in the league throughout the second half of the 2017 season, but a few key relievers are now free agents, including Brandon Kintzler and Matt Albers. While Kintzler and Albers may return in 2018, the Nats should take a look at all of their options.

On Friday, another option arose when Jared Hughes was not tendered a contract by the Milwaukee Brewers. Hughes, a 32-year-old reliever, has had a solid seven-year career for the Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates, and should come relatively cheap.

The decision to non-tender Hughes was a bit of a questionable one, considering he pitched to a 3.02 ERA in 67 games in 2017. He was also an effective reliever and offered a veteran presence in a young bullpen.

Now that Hughes is a free agent, the Nats should consider signing him. While he is not a big name like Kintzler or some of the other available relievers, he gets the job done. Throughout his seven-year career, he has pitched to a 2.85 ERA.

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Most of Hughes’ success comes thanks to his sinker. The sinker is his primary pitch, but it is complemented by a slider, fastball, and change-up. Because he is a sinkerballer, he is an extreme ground ball pitcher. According to FanGraphs, he had a 62.2 percent ground ball rate in 2017.

Hughes’ sinker also averaged 93.9 mph in 2017, which was a career-high, according to Brooks Baseball. This is encouraging because it shows that he is not declining yet, as pitchers typically do in their thirties.

If Hughes were to sign with the Nats, he could prosper in a fireman’s role. His fantastic sinker enables him to induce lots of weak contact and ground balls, which are crucial when attempting to wiggle out of jams. He also stranded 79 percent of baserunners in 2017, which is considered excellent.

In addition to reliability, Hughes is also extremely durable. Throughout his career, he has only been placed on the disabled list once, which was for a strained lat, a minor injury. Considering the Nats’ training staff seems to work more than a cashier on Black Friday, a durable reliever would be a welcome addition.

Finally, Hughes would likely come relatively cheap. He only made $950,000 in 2017, and MLB Trade Rumors projected he would make $2.2 million in arbitration. In today’s game, that is pocket change for an effective reliever.

Next: J.T. Realmuto a possible trade target

Although there were already several solid options for the Nats to choose from when completing their bullpen, another one just unexpectedly fell into their lap. While Hughes is not a big name, he could be an extremely effective reliever for the Nats, and do it for an extremely affordable price.

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