Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked at WinterFest this past weekend about why he was comfortable giving multi-year deals to 30-plus-year-old relievers in Daniel Hudson and Will Harris.
“Will Harris’s track record is second to none,” Rizzo explained.
Hudson, he said, proved to be a reliable back end of the bullpen arm after he was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays at the trade deadline last July, and the defending World Series champs signed the 32-year-old reliever, who’ll turn 33 in March, to a 2-year/$11M deal after he became a free agent almost immediately after recording the final outs of the Nationals’ World Series win.
“Hudson is a guy that we threw in the fire early, often, daily, once we got him,” Rizzo said, “... and his makeup passed the test for us, we want that type of player in the clubhouse, so we made it a point to get him back, because we needed his presence back, and we wanted to upgrade ourselves at the back end of the bullpen.”
The deal with Harris, 35, who signed for three years and $24M, came just a few days before Hudson’s, and the pitcher who was on the mound for the final out of the Fall Classic didn’t know if his was going to happen once he heard that the now-former Houston Astros’ signed on in D.C.
“Pretty much that whole week leading up to when Will signed there was some open dialogue,” Hudson explained in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday night.
“We were trying to figure things out. They had mentioned that they had interest in a couple other players, as I mentioned I had interest in other teams as well, but, yeah, we kind of had a talk that day that Will signed, and we obviously couldn’t work anything out that day, and then a couple hours later they signed Will, and I pretty much thought that kind of closed the book on it.
“But they circled back the next day, and said that they were still interested and wanted to try to work something out, so we kind of just kept the dialogue open from there.”
Hudson wanted to return, he told reporters, because he wanted to be part of the defense of the Nationals’ World Series crown.
“Obviously you want to try to — recreating what we had is going to be tough, but I feel like I want to try to be a part of that,” he said.
“I felt like I wanted to try to be a part of that since the beginning of free agency. I made it known to my agent that I’d be open to going back, and luckily they still had the interest in me as well.
“I felt like the window to continue winning in D.C. is definitely still open, and I’d like to be a part of that still.”
Hudson put up a 1.44 ERA, a 3.53 FIP, four walks, and 23 Ks in 24 games and 25 innings on the mound for the Nationals after he was acquired, and then put up a 3.72 ERA, a 4.04 FIP, four walks, and 10 Ks over 9 2⁄3 IP in the postseason as the club battled their way to the first MLB championship by a D.C.-based team since 1924.
Returning to a bullpen that will feature Sean Doolittle and Harris and some mix of relievers who are currently on the Nats’ roster including Tanner Rainey, Wander Suero, Roenis Elías, and Hunter Strickland, made Hudson’s decision an easy one.
“It’s definitely a bonus when you have other talented players around you, I feel like it just kind of ups your game a little bit.
“I feel like we have a very wide range of types of pitchers in our bullpen with Suero and Rainey as well, and obviously Doo and Will,” Hudson said.
“There’s a lot of different looks coming at you, so I feel like we all kind of complement each other well, and obviously to be a part of that hopefully in the back end of that bullpen is exciting as well.”
The Nationals’ willingness to give Hudson a two-year deal, providing stability for the reliever and his family, after he played for three different organizations in 2019, and five over the last four years, was another factor in Washington’s favor as he tried to make a decision.
“Obviously I’ve kind of bounced around a lot the last couple years,” Hudson acknowledged.
“It’s kind of an unsettling feeling knowing that there is a — I mean I guess there’s always a chance that you can get traded ... or things could go wrong, it’s a pretty up and down life that we live, except for the elite-elite guys that are always putting up the consistent numbers every year.
“To be able to have that security was definitely a huge selling point for me. Them being willing to listen and being open to giving me two years.
“I know that my age and my injury history isn’t on my side, but for them to kind of take care of me and my family was definitely a huge factor in me wanting to come back here.”
Hudson’s returning to a club whose history he’ll be a part of forever, however the next two years play out, and that’s important too.
“Obviously the last pitch of the World Series is going to be played on a loop,” he said.
“If the Nationals ever build a museum that will be played on a loop for a long time, so to be part of that and that image hopefully of me and Yan [Gomes] embracing before everybody mobbed us is definitely going to be a big part of Nats’ history and I’m proud to be a part of it.”