The Washington Nationals traded for Josh Bell. Then they added Kyle Schwarber. Then they brought back Ryan Zimmermann on a one-year deal. Now they’ve added relief pitcher Brad Hand, a welcome addition to a bullpen which carried a 4.68 ERA last season. The Nationals continue to plug holes in an attempt to remain competitive in the East — and thus extend their window of contention.
I’ve had qualms about the Nationals’ ability to remain competitive this season; my concerns were exacerbated with the goings-on around the rest of baseball, particularly with the New York Mets and San Diego Padres, adding to the already existing threats of the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers. Though my skeptical heart beats on, I’ll admit that I’ve been fairly impressed with the wheelings-and-dealings going on in DC.
Make no mistake, I won’t attempt to recant on anything I’ve speculated about thus far, nor would I want to. I stick by my assertion that this window isn’t as open as some seem to believe it is and that stocking a depleted farm system is key to avoiding ruin for the foreseeable future. With that said, I’d be happy to be proven wrong by the team, and I’ll certainly take the proverbial punches that will roll in if my predictions are proven to be woefully incorrect.
Now, onto more important things. I was relieved to see the addition of Hand. I’d spoken longingly about signing a quality reliever before the ball got rolling this spring. After Liam Hendriks was taken off the board, Hand was ostensibly promoted to the spot of “best option.”
When Hand was waived by Cleveland and went unclaimed by the other 29 major league organizations, I wondered if there was perhaps some inadequacy plaguing the lefty that the general public was unaware of. After all, I’m working with the information gleaned from beat writers and national writers either producing articles or breaking news on Twitter; I have no inside or special information, obviously.
Hand had a $10 million option exercisable by Cleveland — but the club ultimately refused — and then no organization took a flier on the newly freed pitcher. Then the Nationals inked him to $10.5 million. Of course, it’s all the same to me; as a fan (and writer) 411 miles removed from the nation’s capital, the team’s finances and how they choose to allot them isn’t of particularly high relevance to me. I care about it insofar as it affects who the team can afford to fill gaps, but how high of a payroll they command is of little consequence to me.
In 23 games in 2020, Hand controlled an impressive 1.37 FIP and 45 ERA-. That type of contribution will be sorely needed to stabilize the bullpen in 2021. Moreover, his strong 0.77 WHIP and 33.7 percent K% will give the Nationals a potent option in the back end of the bullpen.
I suspect that Washington might make another move before the season gets going in earnest, and it’ll be interesting to see where the front office decides to go. But I will say this: Regardless of outcome (and without regard for my own predictions), this should be an exciting season, particularly within the National League East.