With just a few last needs for the Washington Nationals 2019 roster, Mike Rizzo began his foray into the minor league market with the signing of Vidal Nuno.
It’s no secret that the Washington Nationals only possible remaining major move this offseason will be whether they sign Bryce Harper or not. However, it’s that time of the offseason where GM Mike Rizzo thrives by picking up low-risk guys on minor league deals like Vidal Nuno.
Fancred’s Jon Heyman first reported the deal on Thursday evening for the left-hander that will see him make $1.3 million if he makes the big league roster. Heyman mentions opt-outs, which are pretty standard procedure for a deal like this, but no specific timeframes on them.
Nuno is coming off of an excellent season where he pitched exclusively out of the bullpen for the Tampa Bay Rays to the tune of an impressive 1.64 ERA. So while Nuno does have starting experience in the major leagues, he seems best suited to a relief role with the Nationals.
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Some may look at the reverse splits that he put up last season and be wary that the team may be picking up another Sammy Solis, but that’s not the case. Over his career, Nuno allows a .689 OPS to lefties compared to a .797 OPS against right-handers. Only a little better against lefties, but it makes a nice change from both Solis and Matt Grace.
Solis and Grace are likely the reason that Vidal Nuno was the second minor league pitching pickup this offseason, after Henderson Alvarez earlier in the winter. As it stands, the Nats bullpen was lacking another left-hander that they could consistently rely on to get fellow left-handers out at the plate. Nuno won’t grab the headlines, but should either of the existing options falter, he could be an option in the bullpen as a solid arm from the left side.
The front office will be hoping that Nuno can replicate the success of recent signings by the Nationals who have come in on minor league pacts and contributed significantly. The two most recent examples are Justin Miller and Matt Albers who were both picked up after lackluster spells with the Los Angeles Angels and Chicago White Sox respectively. They both then quickly rose from low-risk fliers to key roles in the bullpen, and Nuno will hope for the same success.
The Nats also brought in Jeremy Hellickson on a minors deal during Spring Training as another low-risk addition with AJ Cole far from convincing as a starter. That’s also a model they’re likely the explore this offseason too, because after the too five rotation candidates, there isn’t much depth currently.
We saw last year it’s going to take up to eight or nine decent enough starting pitchers to make it through a full season. So if the Nationals can follow up their signing of Nuno with yet more bargain basement pitchers with something to prove, it could provide invaluable depth for the upcoming season.
While Vidal Nuno may initially not raise many eyebrows to Washington Nationals fans, it signals the start of a period that will allow the front office to add much-needed pitching depth. That depth is the last thing on Rizzo’s wishlist this offseason and there are bound to be more of these moves coming.