Having acquired both Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from the Oakland Athletics in a pre-deadline deal, Washington Nationals’ General Manager Mike Rizzo then made one additional trade to shore up the Nats’ bullpen. Rizzo landed Brandon Kintzler in a swap with Minnesota that sent minor league lefty Tyler Watson and an undisclosed amount of international bonus slot money to the Twins.
Rizzo talked Kintzler up after the deal. He came to D.C. with a 2.78 ERA, 11 walks, 27 Ks, 28 saves, and a .246/.297/.329 line against in 45 1⁄3 innings pitched.
“He pounds the strike zone,” Rizzo said. “Big strike thrower, got a good sinker, throws a lot of ground balls, gets a lot of weak contact, capable against right-handers and left-handers, and a guy that is obviously experienced in pitching back ends of the games. He’s finished the final three outs in games, in important games for the Twins, and I think has the capabilities of pitching in a lot of different roles and one of those roles being the ninth inning.”
Kintzler spent the majority of his time in the seventh inning while in D.C., with Madson handling the eighth and Doolittle in the ninth, giving the Nationals a so-called “three-headed monster” at the back end of the bullpen.
In his time with the Nationals after the trade, Kintzler put up a 3.46 ERA (10 ER in 26 IP, though four of the runs came in his final regular season appearance), with five walks and 12 Ks, and a .253/.295/.364 line against as a Nat.
Now-former Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker, a fan of round numbers, tried to find a few opportunities to get Kintzler to 30 saves, but the right-hander blew two of three chances in his time in D.C. to finish the season with 29 total, which he said wasn’t a big deal to him since it wasn’t what he was asked to do during his time in the nation’s capital.
“They don’t really matter really,” Kintzler said. “If it was my job maybe I would care, but that’s not my role on this team, so 29 or 30, it’s a loss for the team. It don’t matter.”
In 12 appearances in September before he got knocked around in his final outing of the regular season, Kintzler had given up just one earned run in 11 1⁄3 innings (0.79 ERA), over which he held hitters to a .195/.195/.268 line.
“I thought I was on a good run until today, so I was feeling good about myself,” Kintzler joked with reporters, “but three out of four, 72 games, I get five days off, I should feel really good.”
“One of those [outings] that’s going to happen,” he said, “you just always try to avoid it at the end of the season, but I still feel good about myself. I think I had a good couple weeks going into it.”
Kintzler finished the 2017 campaign, and his eighth major league season, with a 3.03 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 16 walks (2.02 BB/9), 39 Ks (4.92 K/9), and a .248/.296/.342 line against in 71 1⁄3 IP.
Kintzler, the one of the three relievers acquired at the deadline who is headed for free agency this winter, avoided arbitration with the Twins last winter, when he agreed to a 1-year/$2.95M deal. Will the Nationals consider trying to bring the sinker-balling right-hander back? Should they?
Doolittle, 31, is under contract through 2019 at $4.35M next year and $6M in the final year of the 5-year/$10.5M extension he signed with the A’s in 2014.
Madson, 37, is under contract for 2018 at $7.5M in the final season of the 3-year/$22M free agent deal he signed with Oakland in 2015.
With Matt Albers, Oliver Perez and Joe Blanton headed for free agency, right-handed reliever Koda Glover, who was the closer for a time, still dealing with the effects of the shoulder injury that sidelined him this season, and Shawn Kelley diagnosed with bone chips in his right elbow late this season, would it make sense for the Nationals to try to bring the 33-year-old Kintzler back in 2018? Are there options in the minors you’d like to see get an opportunity?
Do the Nats need more of a sure-thing at the back end of the bullpen to avoid what happened early this past season? Should they keep their three-headed monster for another run in 2018?