Washington has found their new closer.
For years, Washington’s Achilles heel has been their bullpen. Starting in 2012, the bullpen has let the team down and time again, playing a crucial part in multiple playoff meltdowns. After numerous attempts to fix the problem, the bullpen hit rock bottom in 2019. Washington’s relief core finished the 2019 season 29th in ERA. Attempts to fix the bullpen were futile and manager Dave Martinez decided to primarily use two to three relievers for the bulk of the team’s playoff run. He also used his starters in relief and while many of his pitchers were overworked, it culminated with Washington winning their first-ever World Series title.
Unfortunately, that strategy cannot work in the regular season and the front office went back to the drawing board. Fast forward to now, and on paper, the Nationals have a decent bullpen. Tanner Rainey and Kyle Finnegan have emerged as reliable pieces. Throw in Daniel Hudson and Will Harris, and now Washington has multiple options to turn to. Rounding out the bullpen is Wander Suero, Ryne Harper, and Ben Braymer, but Washington needs to add a lefty for high leverage situations. Enter Brad Hand.
Earlier today, it was reported that Washington had reached an agreement with the lefty on a one year deal worth $10.5 million.
Entering the off-season, the Indians declined Hand’s $10 million dollar option and not a single team decided to pick it up. At the time, I understood Washington’s decision was due to not having much money to work with. But they were able to add Kyle Schwarber, Jon Lester, and Josh Bell on affordable contracts, leaving some extra spending money. Washington ended up spending an extra $500,000, but it is totally worth it. After a rough start to his career, over the last five seasons, Hand has become one of the most underrated lefty relievers in the game. Since 2016, Hand is 17-18, with a 2.70 ERA, 434 strikeouts, and 104 saves.
Hand will replace Sean Doolittle as the team’s new to-go lefty, a role he has thrived with. Last season, he went 2-1, with a 2.05 ERA, 29 strikeouts, and a 1.37 FIP, while going 16 for 17 in save opportunities. Washington has lacked a lockdown closer for two seasons now and Hand is the perfect answer. Daniel Hudson has made it clear in the past that he doesn’t like to close and Tanner Rainey is better used for spot situations. Now Washington has the making of a lights out bullpen.