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Wire Taps: Nationals add trio of relievers; Braves up ante in arms race; Jeremy Hellickson inching towards return

Catch up on the last 24 hours in Nationals news and enjoy the off day after yesterday’s Trade Deadline drama [whispers - And loss to the Braves.”]...

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MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Well, out of all the many scenarios for which we could have prepared for yesterday, adjusting to Hunter Strickland in a Nationals uniform certainly wasn’t one of them. While Daniel Hudson seems like the safest bet on the team, Strickland may have the highest ceiling/lowest floor arm in these deals: if he can pitch like his old self, he could be what Trevor Rosenthal never was — but if he’s still injured or falls apart after so much time off, it’s not going to be pretty on any level.

Here’s all the news from Arizona:

Even if the Nationals’ new arms are merely adequate, that marks a step up (WaPo)
It'll be difficult for these new relievers to be any worse than what the Nats used to have, that's for sure. Nominally, they're competent. Of course, the bargain bin strategy that landed them here in the first place may backfire yet again — but if the new additions are decent at all, the bridge to Sean Doolittle could get a lot easier to manage.

Nationals trades: Daniel Hudson, Roenis Elías, Hunter Strickland bolster bullpen (WaPo)
Roenis Elías and Daniel Hudson are high-value additions at their best, but are statistical gambles. Hunter Strickland has a proven track record but has struggled with injury all year long. The Braves, in the meantime, added the very expensive Mark Melancon and statistically strong but overvalued Shane Greene — and when it comes down to the wire, it'll be interesting to see if staying under the luxury tax line kept the Nats from going deep into October.

Nationals’ rally falls short in 5-4 loss to Braves in extra innings (WaPo)
The Nats rallied all the way back, though they probably could've won it in the bottom of the ninth. Nevertheless, it got to the top of the tenth, and Josh Donaldson beat Sean Doolittle on the pitch he trusts most.

Nationals Add Relief Help in Daniel Hudson (Fangraphs)
Hudson isn't throwing his slider as much as he used to and is giving up fewer home runs, so that sort of bodes well for the Nationals?

Groundhog Deadline Day: Nats Add Relief Help (Fangraphs)
Another deadline, another bullpen revamp for the Nats. This time, it was Roenis Elías and Hunter Strickland, attempts to stabilize the bullpen for the future, which seems silly given the alarming regularity with which Nationals bullpen arms implode year in and year out. Elías is striking out more batters than he used to but isn't getting as soft contact as he used to. If the Nats can use him for full innings, he could be useful — but Hunter Strickland is more of a bet on him finding his form from 2015-2017.

Mike Rizzo refutes report that Nationals haven't spoken with Anthony Rendon in a month (NBCSW)
Mike Rizzo says that Scott Boras gave a counter-proposal for Anthony Rendon's contract on July 15th, so this thing is still in the works, apparently.

Inside the Nationals’ new additions: How they got them, where they fit and is it enough to catch Atlanta? (The Athletic)
The Nats did something, though it's unclear how much they actually added to the bullpen. They did their best, kicking the tires on "about 20" other deals, but Atlanta's additions seemed more substantial and proven. The Nats apparently were also wary of going all-in for a one-game playoff if they couldn't make the division work, given the thin depth of their farm system. The best news of the day was for Sean Doolittle, though, who will hopefully see his workload decrease a bit.

Nationals pick up trio of relievers, including Strickland (MASN)
For a while, it looked like the Nats weren't going to get anything. Then came Hudson; following Hudson was Elias and Strickland in quick succession. Like that, for better or for worse, the bullpen was revamped.

Doolittle blames pitch execution for late homer, Nats fall in extras (MASN)
“It was pretty close to where I wanted it,” Doolittle said. “I talked to (Kurt Suzuki) and he said it was a little away. We were trying to go up and in, so it might of drifted a little back towards the outer part of the plate, and he was able to get the barrel on it."

Adams can pinch-hit, Zimmerman swings in cage (MASN)
In the most momentous non-trade news of the day, Jeremy Hellickson is throwing sim games in West Palm Beach, meaning he could slot in at the fourth or fifth rotation spot by mid-August if all goes according to plan.

Nationals Acquire Daniel Hudson From Blue Jays, Deal No. 21 Prospect Kyle Johnston (Baseball America)
Hudson is another two-time Tommy John veteran and has a 3.00 ERA over 48 innings, though he walks 4.3 per 9 — when his fastball is located well, he can do well. Kyle Johnston is seen as a future reliever and has a rapidly-improving slider, but his command is questionable.

Mariners Acquire Multiple Big Arms From Nationals In Exchange For Roenis Elias (Baseball America)
Elvis Alvarado moved to the mound after struggling at the plate in the DR and the Gulf Coast League — but he could have a useful power arm in a few years. Taylor Guilbeau, in the meantime, has found a new level of velocity but will likely become a low-leverage reliever if he cracks the bigs. Elias, once a starter, is a one-inning lefty with reverse splits.

Nationals Bullpen Makeover Continues With Addition Of Hunter Strickland (Baseball America)
Aaron Fletcher is a 14th-rounder who reached Double-A just 13 months after signing with a funky release that he uses to fill up the zone, while Strickland is a bet on a healed lat muscle and a mid-90s fastball.

Daniel Hudson Nationals trade (
Elias will be under team control through 2021, and Hunter Strickland has two more seasons of arbitration eligibility.

Nationals choose multiple mid-tier arms over big splash at trade deadline (NBCSW)
"This risk is similar to the one Mike Rizzo took when he brought Jonathan Papelbon to Washington. Papelbon, of course, had his own run-in with Harper by choking him atop the dugout steps. Then, surprisingly, Papelbon was back the next season. No section of the team has been more volatile -- on the field and off -- in Rizzo’s Washington tenure. And no section of the team is in need of annual help the way the bullpen is."

Mike Rizzo grappled with new parameters during his pursuit to improve Nationals (NBCSW)
“In the past, we've done deals early in the period and it was almost on deaf ears [this time],” Rizzo said. “I think people wanted to wait until the deadline, there were a few deals done days in advance, I think, but we've done it often times weeks and months in advance and I think it really did curtail that type of discussion.”

Nationals rally, lose to Braves in extra innings (
Everyone—Sean Doolittle included—thought the Nats were going to find some way to pull it out on Wednesday afternoon, but they just couldn't get it done when it came time to push the winning run across the plate.

MLB trade deadline: Nationals acquire three RPs for bullpen, including the guy who punched Bryce Harper (Yahoo!)
We flash forward to the bottom of the tenth inning of the NL Wild Card game. The Nats lead 4-3. Bryce Harper comes up to the plate. Hunter Strickland is on the mound. That's a fun one to consider.

Nats get 'new toys,' add three to taxed bullpen (ESPN)
Mike Rizzo thinks all three additions can pitch the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings, even though they aren't the "sexiest names in the trade market." Sean Doolittle is excited for his "new toys" as well.