Washington Nationals: Brandon Kintzler stays put

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 09: Brandon Kintzler
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 09: Brandon Kintzler /

Washington Nationals fans got a holiday gift Thursday when they re-signed Brandon Kintzler. The “Law Firm” is back for 2018.

The Washington Nationals solved one of their biggest mysteries overnight Thursday be retaining relief pitcher Brandon Kintzler.

Kintzler signed a two-year deal which will pay him a base of $10 million over the course of the deal with an option for a third year and millions in incentives. If the contract maxes out, it is three years and $16 million. For 2018, the “Law Firm” of him, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle remains intact.

Whether the Nats will continue to chase Wade Davis in free agency remains a question. Although Davis is the best closet on the open market, Washington keeps the back of their bullpen which pitched lights out from August on.

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Since another starter and catching help for Matt Wieters are the pressing needs, it is hard seeing general manager Mike Rizzo going after another high-priced reliever. Hopefully Washington and Matt Albers can agree to finish the pen going into the new year.

Kintzler’s return is a pleasant surprise.

A closer for the Minnesota Twins until his deadline day trade, conventional wisdom thought he would pursue the same role his second time through free agency. There was a mutual interest between him and the Arizona Diamondbacks, but Kintzler liked what he saw in Washington.

With Washington in 2017, Kintzler pitched mostly in the seventh and eighth innings. In 27 games, he threw 26 innings with a 2-1 record. His 3.46 ERA and 1.154 WHIP are around his career averages. Not a hard thrower, he can set up and close effectively.  He recorded 45 saves in Minnesota in a full year as closer.

As the free-agent relievers came off the market at prices around $9 million a year, Kintzler’s decision to take $5 plus incentives shows how strong the Nats are. Although a decent raise from the $2.925 million from last year, you would think his value was closer to $7 million.

Washington gladly takes the deal.

If Dave Martinez keeps the same bullpen rotation Dusty Baker used to finish the season, Kintzler will pitch the seventh or fill in for Madson in the eighth. Along with Madson, Kintzler can close if something happens to Doolittle. Three established closers are a far cry from how last season started.

Kintzler joins Ryan Raburn as the only Nats free agents to sign. Both stayed put. Ten remain free agents.

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In taking a team-friendly deal, Kintzler knows what his role will be in 2018 while Washington keeps the needed financial flexibility to fill their pressing needs. A win-win.