The Washington Nationals have a bevy of good bullpen arms, but adding Craig Kimbrel would add another dimension to the team. Here’s why the Nats should sign the free-agent pitcher.
The Washington Nationals’ history is filled with mostly underwhelming bullpens.
Starting from the 2010 season, here are the top relief pitchers on each Nationals team, according to Fangraphs.com’s WAR statistic:
Not one of those seasons did a Nationals pitcher have a WAR above two. However, that can change if the team signs Craig Kimbrel.
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In fact, it’s not outrageous to think that with Doolittle and Kimbrel, the Nats can have two relief pitchers with a 2.0 WAR or higher next season. Having that in the right-field bullpen at Nationals Park would be a gamechanger for the team.
Signing Kimbrel would likely mean the Nationals would go over the luxury tax, something that team does not want to do again. However, isn’t a small luxury tax worth paying for a player of Kimbrel’s caliber?
Kimbrel is a seven-time all-star, a World Series champion, and has received Cy Young Award votes in five of his eight seasons as a full-time player.
If he keeps pitching as he has, he will have a strong Hall of Fame case. Players like that don’t come around often in free agency.
One argument against signing Kimbrel is that it would relegate Doolittle to the set-up role. However, this isn’t necessarily the case.
Assuming both players are for winning games, and not about stats, the best move would be to platoon the two in the high leverage games. Doolittle can face a lineup of left-handed hitters, while Kimbrel can face right-handed hitters.
Also, what fans might not think of immediately is the domino effect of one of these pitchers pitching in the eighth inning.
According to Jon Heyman, other teams linked to Kimbrel are the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves. Adding Kimbrel to the Nationals and potentially weakening a division rival is the cherry on top.
Why stop there? Adding Kimbrel could be the last piece of the puzzle to put the Nationals over the top in the National League.