The intrigue surrounding why the Washington Nationals ultimately parted ways with relief pitcher Jeremy Jeffress is steadily growing. When I saw Jeffress tweet, “I’m not what they say I am, I’m what God says! I don’t deserve this false negativity!” I was curious but didn’t dig much deeper.
The organization isn’t willing to speak much on the topic, and I don’t expect that to change in the near future. The terminology surrounding this event is somewhat cryptic, with phrases like, “personnel reason,” and, “employment issue” being the primary explanations used. Given the medium through which both parties “explained” themselves, I would speculate that if either camp is going to reveal the reason behind this decision, it would be Jeffress.
All that notwithstanding, I was curious to look into what exactly the Nationals will be missing with the absence of Jeffress.
Jeffress perhaps became most well-known during the 2018 season when he was in the midst of his second stint in Milwaukee.
He was an All-Star that year, compiling a 0.99 WHIP, 32 ERA-, and 1.7 fWAR.
It was an excellent year out of the bullpen. He regressed in 2019 but looked as though he was getting back on track in 2020.
During the shortened COVID season, Jeffress appeared in 22 games (23.1 innings), maintained a 0.94 WHIP and 35. ERA-. He also put forth an impressive 1.54 ERA over that time. Though some metrics, like FIP and xFIP, suggested Jeffress should be performing at about the same rate as what he had in 2019, his more outcome related numbers were much improved.
I say that to conclude with the following line of reasoning: While Jeffress’ 2020 was excellent, his peripheral numbers kept elbowing him in the side, waiting for him to slip. Whether or not he would eventually slip up over the course of a full regular season is up for debate, but the fact is Jeffress was a strong arm out of the Chicago bullpen a year ago.
While we may never know the reason for why these two parties split, it’s likely unfortunate that Washington won’t have Jeffress’ services out of the bullpen. I have to think, however, that the Nationals must’ve had a quality reason to part ways with the 33-year-old pitcher. Because of that, it isn’t necessary to think about “what could’ve been.” Besides, he was only signed to a minor league deal, so perhaps Washington had given some thought to the numbers I outlined here (and probably much more biomechanic-driven data, as well) and decided his services wouldn’t be worth whatever headache they determined to be coming with him.
Now he’s back on the free agent market. I’m sure somebody will take a flier on him.