Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez talked over the weekend about the bullpen depth the club assembled for the 2021 season, with late-inning options like Brad Hand, Daniel Hudson, Will Harris, Tanner Rainey and more in camp and expected to be part of the Opening Day relief corps along with a number of young and up-and-coming arms that give the manager options.
“I really like it,” Martinez said of the depth GM Mike Rizzo and Co. in the front office have put together.
“Our back end of the bullpen right now, barring any injuries, looks really good. We had some other guys, the [Kyle] Finnegans and the [Wander] Sueros, Suero has been with us for a couple years now, and I’m looking for big things out of him, but having that depth is awesome, knowing that if somebody does go down we have someone who can fill in for them and somebody that we’re really confident with. So that’s really, really awesome going into Spring Training, going into a season having so many guys that can fill in and especially pitch in the back end of the bullpen.”
Jeffress would earn $1.25 million with another potential $1.25 million in performance bonuses if he makes the Nationals' roster. https://t.co/8t06xIFXXY— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) February 22, 2021
According to reports this afternoon, the Nationals have added to that depth, signing right-hander Jeremy Jeffress to a minor league deal which, according to MLB.com’ writer Mark Feinsand, will pay the 33-year-old, 11-year veteran, “... $1.25 million with another potential $1.25 million in performance bonuses if he makes the Nationals’ roster.”
Jeffress pitched for the Chicago Cubs in 2020, putting up a 1.54 ERA, a 4.09 FIP, 12 walks (4.63 BB/9), 17 Ks (6.56 K/9), and a .137/.273/.192 line against in 23 1⁄3 IP (.136/.255/.205 vs lefties and .138/.297/.172 vs righties) on the season.
Jeffress’s 54.4% ground ball percentage and his ability to keep the ball in the park, giving up just one homer last season (0.39 HR/9) in 22 appearances, over which he got eight saves for the Cubs, lmade him appealing to the Nationals.
Jeffress is a bit of an unconventional reliever in 2021: Successful without a lot of strikeouts. Throws everything down in the zone (sinkers and splitters), doesn't give up homers.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) February 22, 2021
“He’s got to come in, take his in-take test, take a physical, and then we’ll know more after that,” Martinez said after the news broke this afternoon.
“But if everything goes well, I’m excited to have him. A veteran guy, knows how to pitch out of the back end of the bullpen.
“He was with Chicago last year, had eight or nine saves, a guy that we liked. He was available, and we talked to Rizzo about him, and we were able to sign him.”
“I’m excited that he’s coming,” Martinez added, “and he’s another guy that can help us in the back end of the bullpen, which is really nice.
“I’ve said this before, earlier, that this winter we did a lot of different things to try to make sure we had some depth, especially in our bullpen, and he’s another guy that will have an opportunity to make this club, but another guy that gives us that kind of depth if we need to.”
The Nationals have a 40-man roster spot open and seven relievers, by my count, who figure to make the season-opening 26. That group is Daniel Hudson, Brad Hand, Will Harris, Tanner Rainey, Kyle Finnegan, Wander Suero and a long man. They're expected to carry eight relievers.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) February 22, 2021
Why they liked Jeffress, in particular, of all the unsigned players out there still at this point?
“We’ve always liked him. I’ve always liked him,” Martinez said. “The guy takes the ball every day, he’s a competitor, you never have to ask him whether he’s okay or not to pitch. What we liked is he pitched well last year, we felt like he got back to that form like he was when he was an All-Star. The key with him is obviously strike one and keeping the ball down.
“When he’s down, he’s really good. He’s got a good slider, last year his changeup was really good, so we want to get him in camp and build him up and get him ready and put him in games.”