clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Washington Nationals Spring Training Storylines: Do the Nats have bullpen depth they need?

New, comments

Are the Nationals done building their bullpen for 2018? How much faith do you have in Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover staying healthy this season after both dealt with injury issues all year in 2017.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to speculating that Washington would ultimately sign free agent right-hander Jake Arrieta to bolster an already impressive starting rotation, USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale wrote on Wednesday afternoon that though the Nationals, “... continue to say they’re not interested,” eventually, “someone is going to break,” and give Greg Holland the contract the veteran righty is looking for this winter.

Nightengale predicts that the St. Louis Cardinals will give Holland a 2-year/$25M deal after the 32-year-old closer returned from Tommy John surgery last season in Colorado and posted a 3.61 ERA, a 3.72 FIP, 26 walks (4.08 BB/9), and 70 Ks (10.99 K/9) with 41 saves in 61 games and 57 13 innings pitched for the Rockies.

Holland received a qualifying offer from the Rockies, which he turned down, so if the Nationals, who were over the competitive balance tax last season were to sign him, they would forfeit their second-highest and fifth-highest pick in this year’s draft, and would have their international signing bonus pool reduced by $1.0M.

Will Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Nats’ front office, who reportedly expressed interest in Holland last winter, only to have the deal rejected by ownership in D.C., add another high-end reliever after bringing Brandon Kintzler back on 2-year/$10M deal?

Rizzo didn’t talk like a GM still in the market for high-end relief help last week, when he spoke to MLB Network Radio hosts Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette about the existing needs on the roster.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Dodgers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

“Our bullpen is really solid,” Rizzo said. “We’ve got good medical reports on Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover, which is going to really, really help our depth in our bullpen, and with [Sean] Doolittle, [Ryan] Madson, and [Brandon] Kintzler at the back end of those games we feel really good about that.”

With Doolittle, Madson, Kintzler, Kelley, Glover, Sammy Solis, Matt Grace, Enny Romero in the mix for bullpen roles, and depth on the 40-Man roster with Trevor Gott, Austin Adams, Jefry Rodriguez, and Wander Suero, the Nationals have plenty of options as things stand today.

What can the Nationals expect from Kelley and Glover though?

Kelley, 33, struggled in 2017, the second year of his 3-year/$15M deal in Washington, with a rough 7.27 ERA, 8.62 FIP, 11 walks (3.81 BB/9), 25 Ks (8.65 K/9) and 12 homers allowed in 26 IP, after he gave up 11 HRs total in 58 IP in the first year of his contract, while posting a 2.64 ERA, 2.97 FIP, 11 walks (1.71 BB/9), and 80 Ks (12.41 K/9) in 2016.

Kelley, who’s already undergone Tommy John surgery twice, was diagnosed with bone chips in his right elbow at the ends of the 2017 campaign, though he did not need surgery, receiving a stem cell injection in the elbow. Will he be able to bounce back to his 2016 form?

Glover, 24, was diagnosed with a labrum tear in his hip in late 2016, then dealt with a hip issue in April last season before a lower back injury led to a second DL stint in June, and inflammation in his right shoulder which kept him out of action for the rest of the season.

Glover’s shoulder acted up again late in September as he rehabbed, officially ending any hope of him returning to the mound in the majors last season.

Earlier this winter, Rizzo talked about what they expect from the 2015 8th Round pick in 2018.

“We’re counting on him. We’re counting on him to be a guy for us, to be a factor for us. His stuff, as you’ve seen his stuff, it’s big league-ready, it’s big league stuff, his attitude, the way he attacks hitters, he’s ready, he’s not afraid, and he’s a tough dude on the mound, and when we channel that and control that, that’s part of being an experienced big league pitcher.”

How much can the Nationals expect from Kelley and Glover in 2018, however? Do the Nats have the depth to get things done in the late innings if Kelley and Glover deal with injury issues again this season? Will they add veteran relievers for depth? Will they sign one of the remaining high-end arms?