In a mid-May report on the Washington Nationals’ bullpen struggles, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale cited information from “executives with direct knowledge of the deal,” who told him the Nationals and Chicago White Sox nearly completed a trade for the Sox’ veteran reliever David Robertson before Spring Training.
In that proposed deal, Nightengale wrote, the Nationals, “... were to send 19-year-old left-hander Jesus Luzardo and minor league infielder Drew Ward to the White Sox for Robertson, with the White Sox eating about half of the $25 million remaining in his contract. But the deal got hung up over money.”
Washington Post columnist Barry Svrluga too wrote late in June that, “according to people with knowledge of the situation, the Nats don’t have David Robertson of the White Sox because, when an offseason trade was in place, the club’s ownership balked,” though he didn’t name Luzardo and Ward as the rumored return.
Robertson, 32, was coming off a 37-save season with the Sox which saw him post a 3.47 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 32 walks (4.62 BB/9), 75 Ks (10.83 K/9) and a .227/.326/.358 line against in 62 1⁄3 innings.
So far in 2017, the White Sox’ closer has earned 12 saves, with a 3.00 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 10 walks (3.00 BB/9), 44 Ks (13.20 K/9) and a .184/.258/.330 line against in 30 IP.
“The price has gone up, presumably way up,” FanRag’s Jon Heyman wrote this week in a story on potentially available players with the non-waiver trade deadline approaching, noting that the, “... ChiSox also are willing to pay some of his deal ($19 million to go through next year) if it means getting better prospects back,” while mentioning that the Nationals, “... have to regret not [going] through with the deal for Jesus Luzardo and Drew Ward.”
Heyman also mentions a few other possibilities for teams in the market for relief help, writing that the Kansas City Royals’ Kelvin Herrera, “... isn’t having his best year, but his reasonable salary makes him a nice alternative to the pricier David Robertson.”
Herrera, 27, has 18 saves, a 4.64 ERA, 4.61 FIP, seven walks (1.91 BB/9), 32 Ks (8.73 K/9) and a .269/.305/.519 line against in 33 IP. He’s earning $5.325M on a one-year deal this season after avoiding arbitration with the Royals this winter, and he’s under control for 2018 as well.
Detroit Tigers’ closer Justin Wilson, Heyman writes, “has David Robertson’s stats but not his salary,” adding that there’s, “no reason any contending team wouldn’t want him.”
Wilson, 29, has a 2.56 ERA, 2.96 FIP, 12 walks (3.41 BB/9), 47 Ks (13.36 K/9), nine saves, and a .161/.242/.330 line against in 31 2⁄3 IP.
He’s earning $2.7M this year on a one-year deal after avoiding arbitration with the Tigers, and he’s under team control through 2018 as well.
Sean Doolittle of the Oakland A’s, another rumored target for Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo is on Heyman’s list of potentially available relievers as well, along with San Diego’s Brad Hand, the Miami Marlins’ A.J. Ramos, and Pat Neshek, another reliever mentioned as a potential target for the Nationals. But what will they cost the Nats at this point, with the bullpen an obvious issue on an otherwise solid team with postseason aspirations?
“Right now we’re just kind of testing the market,” Rizzo told ESPN.com’s Buster Olney on a podcast posted earlier this week.
“I’ve talked to a lot of my fellow general managers and just kind of to see where the market is right now.
“It’s no secret that we’re going to be looking for upgrades in the bullpen, and with that said, people aren’t going to want to help us out of the goodness of their heart.”
Rizzo went on to say that the Nationals could look for closers, back-end relievers, or whatever they think could help the bullpen in the long-term and short-term.
“I think it’s going to be a fluid decision,” Rizzo explained. “We’re going to have to see what’s available and what the cost is, that’s always the issue, and supply and demand at this time of the year is always what it comes down to.”
It’s likely going to cost them more in terms of prospects than it would have this winter, after they tried to sign or acquire a number of high-end arms and came up empty, but with 14 blown saves on the season and a fanbase and owner eager to win-now, there is going to be considerable pressure to find relievers who can shore up what has been the weak spot of the Nationals’ roster from the start this season.
With Koda Glover on the DL and his return date unclear, Shawn Kelley still DL’d and now shut down after a neck/upper back flared up when he started throwing, the options in-house are unlikely to solve the Nationals’ problems. Rizzo is going to be making a lot of phone calls over the next few weeks...
If the cost for Robertson was Luzardo/Ward then, what it’s going to take now? What would you offer the Royals for Herrera if you think he’s a fit? What will it take for the Nationals to outbid other contenders if the Tigers make Wilson available? Any other targets you think Rizzo and Co. in the Nats’ front office should pursue? Who are the young, controllable arms out there Rizzo usually goes for? Can we ask the Pirates for Felipe Rivero back? Please?