This past winter, the Washington Nationals swung and missed on several of the top closers on the market.
Rumors connected the team to big names like Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon as well as cheaper arms like Greg Holland and Brad Ziegler, but none of them ended up inking deals in D.C.
As a result, the Nats were forced to look toward their in-house options for handling ninth inning duties. They ultimately settled on Blake Treinen, the 28-year-old righty who had a breakout season in 2016 with a 2.28 ERA in 73 appearances.
Not many outside analysts were sold on Treinen or anyone else in their bullpen taking over as closer, but so far the sinker-ball-throwing Kansas native is 2-for-2 in save opportunities.
Even if most people aren’t sold on Treinen just yet, it’s easy to see just how much of a weapon this group of relievers can be.
Dusty Baker opted to break Spring Training without a long man in the bullpen, giving him seven one-to-two-inning relievers at his disposal.
Although Shawn Kelley’s injury history prevented him from securing the closer role, he’s been one of the premiere setup men in all of baseball over the past two years.
Sammy Solis is left-handed and Joe Blanton a righty, but both posted similar numbers last season and they give Baker options in the seventh and eighth innings.
There was a lot of speculation this spring that rookie Koda Glover would land the closer job due to his unwavering attitude and gaudy strikeout numbers in the minors.
While he doesn’t have the ninth inning just yet, Glover has as high a ceiling as anyone in the bullpen and will certainly be put in high-leverage situations.
Rounding out the group are lefties Oliver Perez and Enny Romero.
Perez has excelled in the left-handed specialist role in his career, holding hitters from that side of the plate to a mediocre .231/.318/.366 slash line in his career.
Romero, whom the Nats acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays this past winter, touches triple digits with his fastball and owns a 9.6 K/9 since the start of 2015.
He’s struggled to harness that velocity in the past, but the Nats appear optimistic about the prospect of having him work with pitching coach Mike Maddux.
In the ninth inning, Baker will be turning to Treinen.
For high-leverage situations after the fifth, Baker could realistically rely on Kelley, Solis, Blanton and Glover for three outs.
Romero has plenty of upside and Perez is always going to be tough against lefties.
Trusting Treinen is going to take some time for a fanbase that hasn’t seen a truly dominant closer take the mound for an entire season since Chad Cordero racked up 47 saves with a 1.82 ERA in 2005.
Despite that fact, Nats fans can feel comfortable with the relief corps handling setup duties. This group may be their deepest one yet.