Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters at the Winter Meetings last December that he liked the left-handed depth in the Nats’ bullpen even with only Sean Doolittle, Matt Grace, and Sammy Solis on the 40-Man roster at that point.
Rizzo also acknowledged it as an area which he would consider bolstering if the right deal was out there somewhere this winter.
“That’s a position that we would consider and think about,” Rizzo said.
“We like the lefties that we have right now. Gracie had a terrific year for us, and we think Solis is a bounce-back candidate. His stuff is too good to get hit around like lefties were hitting him this year.
“So we’re going to make adjustments with him and see what we’ve got, but we’re not going to rule that out.”
Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office did end up signing lefty Vidal Nuno, 31, who put up a 1.64 ERA, a 4.46 FIP, 10 walks (2.73 BB/9), and 29 Ks (7.91 K/9) in 33 innings of work for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018, to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training.
He had a .189/.263/.311 line vs right-handers last season, with a .226/.286/.484 line vs lefties.
Solis, 30, who is out of options, put up a 6.41 ERA, 4.92 FIP, 18 walks (4.12 BB/9), 44 Ks (10.07 K/9), and .277/.367/.490 line against over 39 1⁄3 IP last season (.224/.337/.382 vs RHBs, and a rough .329/.398/.595 vs LHBs).
Grace, 30, finished the year with a 2.87 ERA, a 3.40 FIP, 13 walks (1.96 BB/9), 48 Ks (7.24 K/9), and a .237/.285/.354 line against in 59 2⁄3 IP, posting a .225/.272/.379 line vs right-handed batters and .256/.305/.315 line vs left-handed batters.
Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said this week that he thought Grace, “... was really a godsend last year and what he did all the innings and learning to how to pitch,” with the biggest improvements, in the skipper’s mind, against left-handed hitters.
“Everybody says, ‘Oh, he only gets lefties out.’ He got everybody out last year and did really well, so he learned a lot about himself.”
But a “godsend”? What role does the manager envision Grace filling this year?
“Obviously, we used him quite a bit, but I really feel that his role could vary,” Martinez said.
“He could be a one-inning guy that just comes in to get a lefty out one day, or he can be a guy to get us four outs or maybe pitch two innings. If everybody is healthy, I really envision him coming in and pitching the sixth inning at times, or maybe getting one or two lefties out an inning, so we’ll just have to see.
“But he learned a lot about himself last year, you know, I know that history has it that he’s better against lefties than he is righties, but last year he proved that he can pitch against both.”