Washington Nationals: Thank you Matt Albers

rjuckett
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 09: Matt Albers
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 09: Matt Albers /
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The Washington Nationals decided not to give Matt Albers a two-year contract and the right-hander signed with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Washington Nationals lost Matt Albers Monday afternoon when the free agent signed a two-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The reliever will make a base salary of $2.5 million per year and can earn more in incentives. Along with trading for Christian Yelich and signing Lorenzo Cain via free agency, the Brewers end an active January in a strong position to push the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central.

For Washington, it is a loss. Albers turned around his career with the Nats. Released in Spring Training by the club, early bullpen woes led to a reunion in DC where he thrived. Whatever role Dusty Baker needed, Albers filled.

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In his lone Washington season, Albers threw 61 innings, scattered 35 hits while striking out 63. His 7-2 record with a 1.62 ERA and 0.852 WHIP stabilized the shaky Nats bullpen. When you consider he pitched part of the season with an eight-month pregnant wife stranded in Houston because of flooding from Hurricane Harvey, the story turns to legend.

After a terrible 2016 with the Chicago White Sox, Albers found his groove in Washington. Without a clear role this year, and his desire for a two-year contract, the Nats passed. The Brewers got a good one.

Albers enjoys rare stability for a mid-range reliever while Washington clears a potential path back for Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover to earn better roles as righties out of the pen. The return of Brandon Kintzler for the Nats closed out any late leverage roles.

Enny Romero, Sammy Solis and Matt Grace figure to be the top lefties aside from closer Sean Doolittle. Ryan Madson is the eighth-inning specialist.

Although Albers was a huge success, it was hard to see where he might fit into the team. Insurance for the bullpen in case of injury is not the way to start the year. But, unless pegged to pitch in games that are lost, the emergence of Kintzler, Madson and Doolittle stymied Albers.

Lost in how last season ended is how a Grapefruit League castoff led the Nats bullpen in games and innings pitched. Albers 63 appearances led the team by 10 over Romero. He led Romero by 5.1 innings. His solid contribution was a huge part of Washington’s regular season success.

Next: Previewing a Realmuto trade

The Nats used 15 out of the bullpen in 2017 and 24 pitchers overall. Albers was on the short list for best overall. A hearty thank you and good luck.

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