Washington Nationals: Dan Jennings worth a look
By Drew Douglas
Left-handed reliever Dan Jennings was surprisingly released by the Rays at the end of spring training. Could he be a fit with the Washington Nationals?
The Washington Nationals‘ bullpen is certainly a strength, but that is not to say that there are not a few question marks. Like most of the roster, several of the Nats’ key relievers have a history of being exceptionally injury-prone.
Unfortunately, several of the Nats’ left-handed relievers fit into this category.
Sean Doolittle is a terrific closer, but he has battled shoulder injuries in the past. Sammy Solis is solid, but he has battled elbow injuries as recently as last year. Enny Romero is oozing with potential, but his control has been an issue throughout his career.
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If everything goes right, Doolittle, Solis, and Romero can be dominant relievers. However, over the course of 162 games, something will go wrong. As Murphy’s law states, “if something can go wrong, it will.”
In order to prepare for whatever may happen, the Nats should consider signing Dan Jennings.
Jennings, a 30-year-old left-handed reliever, was surprisingly released by the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday. They are experimenting with a four-man starting rotation, so they must carry several long relievers. Jennings is a typical one-inning reliever, so he did not fit well in the Rays’ bullpen.
However, for a team in need of a reliable lefty, Jennings is a perfect fit.
Jennings has pitched to a 2.90 ERA in six seasons. As far as affordable left-handed relievers go, there are few better.
The Nats were also interested in Jennings last season, before he netted a top-100 prospect for the White Sox.
As a ground ball pitcher, Jennings is exactly the type of pitcher that Derek Lilliquist adores. Jennings primarily relies on a sinker and slider, which has enabled him to induce ground balls at a 55.2% clip throughout his career.
Jennings would also come fairly cheap. He is only owed $1.8 million, which is pocket change for a pitcher nowadays. The Nats have already slightly eclipsed the luxury tax threshold, so signing a cheap reliever now would be preferable to trading for a high-priced reliever at the trade deadline.
Although Jennings does not have a clear spot open for him in the Nats’ bullpen, he would serve as great insurance. The Nats have been snakebit in the past, so having Jennings within the organization could pay huge dividends.
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If Jennings is willing to sign a minor league deal with a few opt-outs, the Nats could be an ideal destination. Mike Rizzo has specialized in these types of signings in the past, and Jennings could be another brilliant addition.