Was it part of the offseason plan for the Washington Nationals and GM Mike Rizzo to strike early this winter with the trade for Kyle Barraclough, the signing of Trevor Rosenthal, the signing of catcher Kurt Suzuki, the deal for Yan Gomes, and the signing of Patrick Corbin, all of which come before the 2018 MLB Winter Meetings even begin?
“Well, we’re very impatient people,” Rizzo joked when he spoke to reporters at WinterFest in the nation’s capital this past weekend, before news of the Corbin signing broke.
“We have a wish list,” he added. “We try to get things done, and when you see something that makes sense for you, we felt that the two relief acquisitions we made were value deals that wouldn’t be there long, so the opportunity to get a young reliever like Barraclough for some international money was something that we thought we needed to move on quickly, and the Rosenthal situation that was there, and he was going to sign with somebody soon, so we wanted to step out and get him. We saw some values out there and we moved quickly.”
Rosenthal said the Nats’ urgency matched his own and he was excited to get a deal done early so he could start preparing for the 2019 campaign after spending a year-plus rehabbing following Tommy John surgery which cost him the entire 2018 campaign.
“Obviously sitting out the whole year I was anxious,” the former St. Louis Cardinals’ closer explained when he met with reporters at Winterfest.
“Once I was cleared by the doctor and did my workout, got in front of teams and started talking to people, I was anxious to get something done quickly and just have my mind at ease and start getting ready for the next season, so as we progressed in conversations — I wasn’t really surprised at how many teams were interested right away — but the Nationals definitely felt the sense of urgency that I had and we were able to work something out quickly.”
Rosenthal inked a 1-year/$7M deal, which includes all kinds of performance bonuses and a $10M mutual option for 2020, back on November 1st.
He told his new manager, Davey Martinez, that he’s raring to go when they spoke at the Nationals’ yearly winter celebration last weekend.
“Trevor Rosenthal told me yesterday,” Martinez told reporters, “he said, ‘I’m ready to throw 100 [MPH].’ I said, ‘Woooah!’ I said, ‘I get it.’ He said, ‘I missed a year and a half, and I’m just psyched up, I’m happy to be here,’ and I said, ‘Hey, I get it. But we’ve got to ease our way into it. Come March, if you want to throw 100 on Opening Day. I’m all for it.’”
Rosenthal acknowledged that he’s had to remind himself to take it slowly throughout the rehab process.
“The way my rehab was set up over the last summer, I gradually got up and I was throwing mid-90s for a good amount of time,” the 28-year-old right-hander said. “Then, as I started heading into the October showcase I wanted to test the upper boundaries where I had normally pitched in the past, so I started around the 98s, 99s, up to 100, but I think my thought process heading into this season is I’m going to feel really good in Spring Training and April and I’m going to feel really strong and want to go 110%, but I think it will be smart for me to kind of put a governor on, or just make sure — I want to make it through the whole season, I don’t want to just leave everything on the table in Spring Training.
“So balancing that out a little bit will be different just because of how much rest and preparation I’ve had compared to a normal season.”
He only got more excited talking to his new teammates for the first time last weekend.
“This is kind of the first weekend I’m getting to meet a lot of the guys,” Rosenthal explained.
“Obviously playing against a lot of them in the past, we kind of know each other just in passing so it’s good to meet them and their families and all the Nationals’ staff, it’s been a really good experience.”
The reliever already has history with the Nationals’ pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, who was the Cards’ pitching coach from 2011-2017, and Rosenthal said having someone who knows his history around played a role in his decision and will definitely help with the transition to a new organization.
“Yeah, it’s something — it wasn’t like at the top of my list, but realizing it was going to make the transition pretty easy, and especially as we get into the season, having a set of eyes that has seen me early in my career, seen me kind of mature and develop to where I’m at today, I think it will be good information that he can pass along to Davey and what he’s seeing compared to how I’ve been in the past, and if I’m kind of on track as normal, and I think that will really help with the transition for everybody and knowing how I operate.”
“We obviously have good history,” Lilliquist said. “He’s a solid individual, and he’s healthy. He did a full year of rehab and I didn’t get to see him personally throw but I did see video when he was trying out, and it’s the same Rosey, and yes, he’s a force when he’s right.”
“I’ve talked to Rosenthal a bunch this weekend and he’s going to be a great fit,” Nationals’ closer Sean Doolittle said, “and no matter how the roles shake out, I think we’ve seen you can’t have too many weapons and you can’t have too much depth in the back end of the bullpen and I think [Barraclough and Rosenthal are] both guys with experience pitching in kind of those late-inning roles, those high-leverage roles, and I’m excited, I’m excited to get to share the bullpen with them.”
Rosenthal’s excited too, especially with the addition of Corbin, who signed a 6-year/$140M deal with the Nationals on Tuesday night.
Let’s go @Nationals !!!! Wow, this team is exciting! Getting better every day. After spending time in DC this past weekend, I was blown away by the character of everyone on this team. Can’t wait to get to spring training and start winning some games!— Trevor Rosenthal (@TrevRosenthal) December 4, 2018