“We recognized the need that we had on this team and we went out and attacked it, and we think we’ve improved ourselves because of it,” GM Mike Rizzo said after making a couple of trades that added three relievers to the Washington Nationals’ bullpen mix before the Trade Deadline on Wednesday.
Rizzo and Co. in the Nats’ front office acquired Daniel Hudson from the Toronto Blue Jays in return for right-handed prospect Kyle Johnston, and brought in lefty Roenis Elías and right-hander Hunter Strickland from the Seattle Mariners in return for right-handed pitcher Elvis Alvarado, and left-handed pitchers Aaron Fletcher and Taylor Guilbeau.
“These aren’t the sexiest names in the trade market,” Rizzo explained, “... but we think we got good quality, reliable bullpen guys with some moxie and some experience. We’ve got guys who’ve accumulated a lot of saves in the past, we’ve got a couple of controllable relievers for not only this year, but for the foreseeable future, and the player return was something was something that was acceptable to us.”
Hudson, 32, signed a 1-year/$1.5M deal with the Blue Jays this winter, and he’s headed for free agency after this season, so he’s a rental, but Elías, 30, is under team control through 2021, and making just $910K this season, and Strickland, 30, who is earning $1.3M, is under control through 2021 as well.
“This was three players that we really liked and the acquisition cost was acceptable to us,” Rizzo said.
“So we felt that we wanted to get at least one and possibly two relievers at the deadline and it worked out that we got three guys that have upgraded us and we feel good about it.”
Hudson has a 3.00 ERA, a 4.21 FIP, 23 walks, 48 Ks, and a .215/.311/.367 line against in 45 games and 48 innings pitched this season. He’s also stranded 21 of 22 inherited runners with Toronto, which is the best mark in Major League Baseball, something that his new manager definitely noted when informed of the first deal that was announced.
“He’s had a great year this year, a guy that’s done really well with inherited runners,” Davey Martinez said on Wednesday afternoon. “He’s held opponents to like a .120 AVG, so looking forward to get him hopefully here for Friday’s game.” It’s actually a .125 AVG with runners in scoring position, which is the third-best mark in the majors (among pitchers w/ a minimum 45 AB w/ RISP).
With those numbers, his new manager said, Hudson is someone he can trust in situations where runners are already on base and not worry about giving him clean innings.
“I like the fact that he’s got experience doing it,” Martinez said. “He’s done well with it, so he’s coming in and for me here’s a guy that’s coming into a pennant race, so I’m sure he’s going to be excited and ready to go.”
Elías, who’s saved 14 games in 16 opportunities with the Mariners, has a 4.40 ERA, a 4.67 FIP, 17 walks, and 45 Ks in 44 games and 47 IP, with a .230/.297/.399 line against overall, though his .353/.441/.549 line against vs left-handers this season is noteworthy (vs a .182/.238/.341 line against vs RHBs).
“His splits for his career are almost identical and we feel that he’ll be very effective against lefties and righties,” Rizzo said, pointing to his .245/.319/.401 line against vs RHBs, and his .258/.338/.380 line against vs LHBs in his career.
“He’s a guy who has pitched multiple innings in the past,” Rizzo continued. “He has saved a bunch of games for the Mariners this year. We like that acquisition. He’s controllable for two seasons beyond this, and he’s a guy that we think really upgrades our left-handed side of the bullpen.”
Strickland, of course, has history with the Nationals, though the player he hit with a pitch a few seasons back, setting off a benches clearing brawl, is no longer with the Nats.
The six-year veteran gave up three runs in 3 1⁄3 IP before he was injured in the fourth game this season, but he returned from the Injured List and a strained right lat muscle this week.
Strickland has a 2.98 ERA, a 3.44 FIP, 79 walks, 214 Ks, and a .227/.296/.347 line against in his career.
As for any concerns about his personality fitting into the Nationals’ clubhouse, Martinez said it was something that is considered with every deal the Nats make, though the trade for the right-hander wasn’t official when he made the comments, so he wasn’t talking about any of the new relievers in particular.
“We due our due diligence, and we talk,” Martinez explained. “If we feel like — whenever we mention players — a lot of our coaching staff and everybody, we’ve been around for a long time — so if we start putting our feelers out there and see what their thoughts are, and even communicate with some players and ask them if he was a good teammate or whatever, and so we want to make sure we bring the right guy, the guy that’s going to fit, not always the guy that’s going to be the best — but that’s a really good clubhouse in there and we don’t want to disrupt that, but we definitely want to bring in a guy that’s going to help us win games.”
After weeks of talks, and deals that didn’t work out, the Nationals added three arms to the mix in their bullpen, and they feel that they’ve upgraded the relief corps that has been the Achilles’ heel for the team throughout the first 108 games.
“We’ve been working on them for a long time,” Rizzo said of the deals that were made in the end.
“We worked on a lot of trades, a lot of different names, a lot of different scenarios, and for the last two weeks we’ve been talking to people. As the deadline nears, things get a little more frantic and we’ve got to expedite it today and a few things came together, fell in our favor, and we made some good deals for us.
“And for the three deals that we made there were about 20 deals that didn’t happen, so it’s been a busy couple days.”