Another left-handed reliever has joined the fray, and will be making his way to Spring Training with the Washington Nationals. First Sam Clay, then Brad Hand, Luis Avilan, and now T.J. McFarland. Plenty of south-paw options for the Nats to mull over in Florida.
McFarland, who spent last season with the Oakland A’s, was signed to a minor league contract with the opportunity to make the team out of camp. Three months ago, we discussed who the Nationals should add as the final pieces to the bullpen. I thought McFarland would be a “cheap, reliable” arm (in the same piece I said the Nationals wouldn’t spend money on Brad Hand, my bad).
Nationals sign T.J. McFarland to compete for the left handed option out of the bullpen.
There isn’t much special about McFarland, other than he is a lefty specialist. He’s logged over four hundred innings for three different teams and carries a career ERA of 4.08. While striking out just five guys per nine innings, McFarland gave up a home run every four innings last year.
Why McFarland then?
He is a ground ball pitcher. That’s why Sam Clay was signed to a major league deal, and why McFarland will get an extended look this spring. He may not miss a lot of bats, but he induces a lot of atom balls on the ground.
Prior to his year in Oakland, McFarland spent three years in Arizona, two of which were with Alex Avila the new backup catcher of the Nationals. In 33 innings the two combined for a 1.87 ERA.
There will be some competition for the left-handed spot in the Nationals bullpen. Hand is a lock for the closer’s role. Avilan is a longshot, and most likely begins the season in the minors. This leaves Clay and McFarland to battle over a roster spot. If McFarland can have a solid spring, the job is his.