Washington Nationals: Not Signing Craig Kimbrel is Bad Business
By Tom Sileo
Why would the Washington Nationals invest half a billion dollars in an elite starting rotation only to watch its bullpen ruin yet another season?
If you buy a Ferrari but refuse to pay for maintenance or repairs, was purchasing an expensive sports car really worth it?
That’s the situation once again facing Washington Nationals managing principal owner Ted Lerner and his family. To their credit, the Lerners invested over $500 million in total contracts to starting pitchers Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Anibal Sanchez and Jeremy Hellickson. The Nats unquestionably boast one of baseball’s best rotations.
As has been the case with every Washington team since the D.C. franchise’s first division title in 2012, however, the problem with this year’s Nationals isn’t starting pitching. In a prior baseball era where starters routinely went deep into most games, the Nats (and the rival New York Mets) would probably be among the heaviest of World Series favorites.
Yet this is 2019, where bullpens matter more than ever and are often called upon to work the final three or even four innings on a given night. In this key area, the Nationals have only one elite pitcher: All-Star closer Sean Doolittle. The rest of Washington’s bullpen has been by far the worst relief unit in baseball so far this season; more inept than the struggling Chicago Cubs or the young Atlanta Braves.
The solution to Washington’s latest bullpen crisis is obvious: signing Craig Kimbrel. The future Hall of Fame closer wouldn’t just help the Nationals in the 9th inning, either. His presence would most importantly turn Doolittle into a Josh Hader-type weapon going up against powerful left-handed hitters like Bryce Harper, Freddie Freeman and Robinson Cano.
The addition of Kimbrel also gives the Nationals a much better chance of solving the rest of its bullpen problems. Assuming Trevor Rosenthal (who I was completely wrong about this spring) can’t return to form, the combination of Justin Miller, Kyle Barraclough, Tony Sipp and perhaps a fresh face from Fresno might do the trick. Either way, the Nats have much better odds of winning close games with a combination of those relievers appearing in the 7th inning instead of the dreaded 8th.
Writers at every FanSided MLB site could make strong cases for how Kimbrel would go a long way toward fixing their favorite team’s bullpen. If the Washington Nationals aren’t careful, Kimbrel ending up in another city is exactly what’s about to happen. As far as the Nats winning the NL East in 2019 is concerned, Kimbrel going back to Atlanta or landing with the Mets or Phillies might be the nail in the coffin.
Again, what’s the point of having a Ferrari in the garage if you aren’t willing to fix it?