Late on Monday evening, the Washington Nationals continued their early movement this offseason with the addition of Henderson Alvarez on a minor league deal.
After the Washington Nationals‘ lack of pitching depth was badly exposed last season, they’re already aiming to rectify it. On Monday they came to an agreement with former Miami Marlins pitcher Henderson Alvarez to a minor league contract.
After an All-Star season in 2014, the right-handed starter struggled with right shoulder issues throughout 2015, eventually undergoing surgery that September. Since then, he’s only managed to make three big league starts, all with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2017.
In his four full seasons before the shoulder injury, between Toronto and Miami, Alvarez possessed a 27-30 record with a solid 3.70 ERA and positive 1.276 WHIP. While he had a higher FIP of 4.10, that’s to be expected as he was never really a strikeout pitcher, with just 4.8 K/9 in that span.
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You may remember the name Henderson Alvarez from his amazing no-hitter back in 2013 for the Miami Marlins on the final day of the regular season. He walked just one batter and struck out four in nine no-hit innings, but it was particularly interesting as when he departed the mound in the ninth, the game was still tied. Thankfully, the Marlins walked it off to secure Alvarez’s piece of history.
Now, after a year in the Mexican League, he’s back trying to resurrect his career stateside with the Nationals. His deal includes an invite to Spring Training which will give him a chance to win a rotation spot out of the gate, just as Jeremy Hellickson did last season.
The Nationals badly needed the organizational depth on the starting pitching front in 2019. Last year when there were injuries to Hellickson and Stephen Strasburg, the replacements such as Erick Fedde, Jefry Rodriguez, and Austin Voth weren’t able to step up enough and cost them several games.
There are no details about when there might be an opt-out in his deal if he’s still in the minors, if any at all, which could mean he sits in Triple-A for as long as needed. With the struggles from some of the youngsters last year, having a veteran presence there who could step in for an extended period of time if needed will be invaluable to the team.
The Nationals attempted to have a similar situation last year with old friend Edwin Jackson pitching in Triple-A last year. Unfortunately, he opted out on June 1st to go to the Oakland Athletics where he pitched to a 6-3 record with a 3.33 ERA in 17 big league starts. The Nats will be hoping Alvarez will provide the same strong depth in 2019
Henderson Alvarez seems like an excellent low-risk medium-reward minor league signing for the Washington Nationals. Only time will tell to see how this plays out, but if he can be anything close to his pre-shoulder injury form, he’ll certainly be a factor in 2019.