The closer role for the Washington Nationals has become something of a taboo since the team moved to D.C. in 2005: players either take the chance to leave town as soon as they get the chance or disappointing performance forces the Nats to remove them from the role and ship them out anyway.
Another failed closer’s Nationals career was ended abruptly Sunday, as Blake Treinen was traded alongside prospects Jesus Luzardo and Sheldon Neuse to the Oakland A’s for relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson.
“It’s unfortunate to see Blake go,” second baseman Daniel Murphy told MASN. “Such a great part of this team and he’s thrown he ball really well for us in the time that you’ve been here. But like anything else, you don’t get anything free in this game, so we had to give up a really quality piece in order to get two quality pieces.”
Treinen was named the Nationals’ closer heading into the season, earning a vote of confidence from his manager and front office in what was considered a group decision to hand him the job.
The 29-year-old struggled out of the gate, posting a 7.11 ERA in his first eight appearances.
Manager Dusty Baker spoke to reporters at the time about his closer’s struggles.
After nearly blowing a save on April 18, Treinen got the hook from Baker in the game and the next day saw the same happen to his closer job.
Since being demoted, Treinen has posted a 5.46 ERA in 31.1 innings to bring his yearly total to 5.73 with a WHIP of 1.619.
Treinen has been the embodiment of the Nationals’ bullpen struggles this season.
Entering play Monday, Washington owns the majors’ worst relief ERA (5.31) to go with 14 blown saves.
While Treinen isn’t the only one who’s pitched below expectations, the reception of his departure from the Nats’ fanbase will most likely be fairly positive.
In his career with Washington, Treinen played four seasons in which he posted a 3.39 ERA (3.48 FIP), 1.377 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 0.5 HR/9 and four saves in 185 appearances (223 innings).
His best season was 2016, when he finished with a 2.28 ERA and 22 holds in 73 appearances (67 IP).
Originally acquired in 2013 from Oakland in a three-way deal that sent Michael Morse to the Seattle Mariners, Treinen will now rejoin the team that drafted him in hopes of getting his career back on track.
The Nationals solidified their middle innings with two dependable — when healthy — arms that have both closing and postseason experience, letting go of a former promising setup man in the process.
Once again, the Nationals are left wondering what could’ve been with another reliever unable to handle the ninth inning in D.C.
Washington can only hope that it gets it right the next time around.