Washington Nationals: Bring back Matt Albers

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The righty did everything the Washington Nationals needed and more. Matt Albers must be re-signed as the 2018 team comes together.

The Washington Nationals thought so highly of Matt Albers last spring, they released him. Really. A mistake they should not repeat.

Invited to West Palm Beach in 2017 as a non-roster invitee, Albers fell just short of making the 25-man roster heading north to start the season. Within a week, he was back for good.

General manager Mike Rizzo took the chance on a failing Albers. In 2016 with the Chicago White Sox, Albers was terrible. In 58 games, he posted an ERA of 6.31 and a WHIP of 1.675. Over 51.1 innings, opponents rattled him for 67 hits.

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What a difference a year makes.

Among the uncertainty of the first-half Nats bullpen last season, Albers was a rock. When stability found the pen in July, he remained a steady influence.

Whether he pitched in the sixth or closed, Albers did his job. A far cry from the pitcher the ChiSox released, he went 7-2 with a 1.62 ERA over 63 games. In 61 innings, he scattered 35 hits while walking 17 for an amazing 0.852 WHIP.

An astounding season deserving of an encore. Because he filled in every bullpen role well, Albers must be re-signed. When everyone else around him last May could not get runners out, he did.

Although not a high-leverage one, there is a role for Albers on the team next year.

Shawn Kelley is coming off an injury causing his career to come into question. Joe Blanton is also a free agent, likely not returning. So is Brandon Kintzler, who has hard decisions on the horizon. Koda Glover is hoping to stay injury free.

Yes, the Nats bullpen is in better shape heading into 2018, but depth lurks as an issue. Albers can plug a few gaps. New manager Dave Martinez can lean on him as a reliable option.

Better suited as an early reliever or a steady hand in a loss, Albers has pitched in setup situations and done well. If Glover, Kelley and Enny Romero struggle to audition for the seventh-inning role, Albers can take it.

Last season, his seventh-inning ERA was 1.15 while Albers’ eighth-inning mark was 1.45 with a BAbip of .103. That is slamming the door stuff by a hurler thriving on pitching to contact.

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Albers made $1.15 million in 2017. At double the price, he is a bargain. Plenty of teams will give him a hard look this winter. The best place for him is back in DC.

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