Off-season Need #1: Bolster The Bullpen
Stop me if you have heard this before, but the Nationals have a bullpen problem. It has become so apparent that we have discussed the issue multiple times. Year after year, the front office makes a flurry of moves in order to address the issue, but nothing seems to work. Last year, the front office signed Brad Hand, who was coming off an excellent season with Cleveland where he went a perfect 16-16 in save opportunities. After a hot start with the Nats, Hand seemed to hit a wall and soon became unable to close out games. By July, the Nationals raised the white flag, and Hand was shipped out during the team’s firesale.
Hand wasn’t the only issue, with Tanner Rainey, Will Harris, Wander Suero, Sam Clay, Austin Voth, and Mason Thompson all struggling or battling injuries. Daniel Hudson was the team’s only constant, but he was traded to the Padres at the deadline.
Washington finished the season last in all of baseball in losses (42), tied for last in FIP (4.86) and blown saves (34), 29th in ERA (5.08), and fWAR (-0.2), and 28th in LOB% (67.7%). The bullpen needs a complete overhaul and just adding one pitcher isn’t enough. For starters, Aaron Loup should be on the team’s radar. Lost in the Mets epic second-half collapse was Loup emerging as an elite bullpen option. In 56.2 innings last year, Loup went 6-0, with a 0.95 ERA, 57 strikeouts, and a 2.45 FIP. He was primarily used to bridge the gap to the Mets closer, posting 17 holds.
Washington should also look at a reunion with Daniel Hudson, Craig Stammen, and Mark Melancon (option) who all spent last year on the Padres. All three had success in D.C. and would add much-needed depth to the backend. Hudson and Melancon both have closer experience and would allow for the Nationals to have multiple high leverage guys.
If the Nationals want to splurge on an arm, Raisel Iglesias is an intriguing option, but he will have a competitive market. 31, Iglesias is still an elite option, posting a 2.57 ERA, while going 34/39 in save opportunities with the Angels.