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Washington Nationals’ 2020 Bullpen Needs: Nats still need to address relief corps as they build roster

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Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Martinez know they need to address the relief corps. Will they find the right arms this time around?

World Series - Washington Nationals v Houston Astros - Game Seven Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Daniel Hudson came over from Toronto (in a deadline trade this past July which sent minor league pitcher Kyle Johnston to the Blue Jays) with a 3.00 ERA, a 4.19 FIP, 23 walks, and 48 strikeouts over 45 games and 48 innings pitched, and he put up a 1.44 ERA, a 3.53 FIP, four walks, and 23 Ks in 24 games and 25 IP for the Washington Nationals in the regular season.

Hudson saved six games between late July and the end of September, with Nationals’ closer Sean Doolittle down for a time in mid-August, and he picked up four more during the club’s run to the World Series, as the reliever put up a 3.72 ERA, four walks, and 10 Ks over 9 23 IP, recording the final outs in the Game 7 win.

The 32-year-old, 10-year veteran, who’d been cut by the Los Angeles Angels last Spring, seemed to turn things around in Toronto, before turning it on down the stretch after he joined Washington’s bullpen, but he said in an MLB Network Radio interview this winter, after becoming a free agent, that he wasn’t taking anything for granted or pretending he figured something out that will carry over when/if he finds home for 2020.

“I’m not going to sit here and say I figured everything out,” Hudson told MLBNR hosts Casey Stern and Brad Lidge in November.

“I got it on track for a little bit, but it’s baseball man, you can easily fall off the track just as quick as you got back on. So, I’ll sit here and let things come to me and not really try to stress out too much and worry about what’s in store for the future. I was telling somebody the other day, even if something happens and I don’t play again, I’ve done a lot in my career and I’m really happy with what I’ve done and what I’ve accomplished, and obviously to win a World Series on top of it is pretty much icing on the cake so anything that happens after this is really just a bonus.”

GM Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office are apparently interested in bringing the hard-throwing right-hander back, as Rizzo told reporters during the Winter Meetings.

“We’ve been in touch with his representatives,” Rizzo acknowledged, noting that the work the organization did scouting him before this past July’s trade makes them comfortable if there’s a deal to be made this winter.

“I think we look at the way we scouted him prior to the trade deadline, and what we saw once he was with us I think gives us more than a snapshot,” the GM explained.

“I think it gives us a longer view with a wider lens of what he will project out to be in the future.”

Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty reported on Twitter earlier this month that there is interest on the Nationals’ part, though there were obstacles to overcome.

“Hudson + his representation are looking for a multi-year contract. Washington likes to keep 30+-year-old relievers to one year,” the WaPost reporter noted:

“Nationals seem hesitant to extend too far on a multi-year deal with big guarantee, but could go beyond one year. Hudson appears to have a few multi-year deals from other clubs ... and his preference is to stay in Washington. But that obviously becomes more difficult if there’s a large gap between the Nationals’ offer and ones from other teams.”

MLBTraderumors.com’s prediction for Hudson in free agency was that he would end up with a 2-year/$12M deal, a year after he signed a 1-year/$1.5M deal with the Angels (which had an additional $1.5M in bonuses possible).

Manager Davey Martinez was clear at the Winter Meetings that he thought the Nationals did need to add some, “‘back end of the bullpen’ guys to complement Doolittle,” and Rizzo said that the relief corps was one aspect of the roster that the club needed to address after their bullpen was an issue throughout the 2019 campaign.

“We’re going to be active in the reliever market still, and there are a lot of relief pitchers that we have targeted that we’ve identified that would be an upgrade for us that would help us,” Rizzo said.

“We think that we’ve got a lot of options in that part of our roster, and we’ll be looking to upgrade there.”

Will the Nationals bring in relievers to supplement the core they have, which includes the likes of Doolittle, Tanner Rainey, Wander Suero, Hunter Strickland, and Roenis Elías.

Thus far this winter, the Nationals have added Kyle Finnegan to the mix on a major league deal, and brought Javy Guerra and Fernando Abad back to the organization on two minor league deals, but they likely won’t be the last deals with relievers that are signed over the next few weeks.