By Mark Gallagher
The Nats were hoping to add an arm to their bullpen and ended up with three:
Right-hander Daniel Hudson from the Blue Jays, as well as left-hander Roenis Elias and right-hander Hunter Strickland from the Mariners.
All three players are upgrades to a bullpen in dire need of help bridging the gap from an excellent starting pitching staff to closer Sean Doolittle, and all three have closing experience, which Rizzo values.
“These aren’t the sexiest names in the trade market,” Rizzo said, “but we think we got good quality, reliable guys with some moxie and some experience.”
Hudson, 32, is a rental, signed just through the end of this season, but he is having one of his best seasons. In 45 games with Toronto, he has posted a 3.00 ERA with nine strikeouts per nine innings, a 4.21 FIP and a fastball averaging 96.0 mph. He’s been even better in his last 21 games, pitching to a 1.85 ERA with 27 strikeouts without surrendering a homer. Hudson has also stranded 21-of-22 inherited runners this season, useful for a Nationals team whose relievers own the worst strand rate in the Majors, holding just 65.2 percent of inherited runners.
The Nationals also wanted relievers with years of control remaining on their contract, and Elías cannot become a free agent until 2022. He’s appeared in 44 games for Seattle this season and posted a 4.40 ERA with 14 saves, which was tied for 10th in the American League at the time of the trade, and 45 strikeouts. In his career, Elías owns nearly even splits against righties (.720 OPS) and lefties (.718), but lefties have been significantly better this season (.990 OPS) than righties (.579), a fact that did not concern Rizzo much.
Strickland instigated a brawl with then-National Bryce Harper in 2017, after holding a grudge on a home run hit in the 2014 National League Division Series. Strickland has two more seasons of arbitration eligibility after this year, but has spent most of the year on the injured list with a right lat strain he suffered in the fourth game of the year. He did make a recent appearance for Seattle, returning on Sunday to toss a scoreless inning against the Tigers, and after scouting him, Rizzo and the Nats feel confident Strickland is healthy.
“We’ve improved our baseball team with three really good relief pitchers, two of them that we control for the long haul,” Rizzo said. “And it shows the guys in that room that we appreciate how we’ve been playing, and we see you, we believe it, and we’re all in it for the long haul.”