Posted July 16, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Washington Nationals have been plagued by a terrible bullpen all season. On Sunday, they finally did something about it. In a trade with the Oakland Athletics, the Nationals have acquired relief pitchers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. In return, the A’s receive Nationals reliever Blake Treinen and a pair of prospects: pitcher Jesus Luzardo and third baseman Sheldon Neuse.
Treinen began this season as Washington’s closer. But he struggled mightily and was removed from his post before the end of April. Things haven’t gone much better for the rest of Washington’s bullpen, which has the highest ERA of any bullpen in the majors. Both Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover have served as the team’s closer at times this season. But both have had uneven results and are currently on the DL.
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Between the injuries and poor performances from nearly every member of the bullpen, the Nationals were desperate for help. Both Doolittle and Madson should provide an immediate boost. Outside of Enny Romero and Matt Albers, the Nationals have struggled to find reliable relief pitching this year.
It appears likely that Madson will immediately step into the closer’s role in Washington. The 36-year old is having one of the best seasons of his career. In 40 appearances this year, Madson has an ERA of 2.06. He has not served as the team’s closer this year. But Madson was a closer last season with the A’s and earlier in his career with the Phillies. He was also a part of Kansas City’s bullpen in 2015 when the Royals won the World Series, so he also brings postseason experience to the table.
Doolittle, meanwhile, adds a proven left-handed setup man to Washington’s bullpen. A shoulder injury caused Doolittle to miss more than a month of action earlier this year. But when healthy, the lefty has posted a 3.38 ERA with opposing batters hitting just .158 against him.
Of course, the Nationals may not be done making deals just yet. Depending on how they view Madson, the club may want to bring in a true closer. Additional depth in the bullpen may not hurt either, especially with Glover and Kelley still on the mend. Washington may also be in the market for rotation depth with Joe Ross out for the season and likely to undergo Tommy John surgery.
As for the A’s, they make a move geared toward the future. They freed themselves of a substantial amount of money, as both Madson and Doolittle are under contract beyond this season. Treinen is a much cheaper bullpen asset. He’s under team control for three more years and has the potential to bounce back from a rough season.
Oakland also adds two promising young prospects. Neuse was a 2nd round draft pick a year ago and is having a productive season in A-ball. Luzardo was Washington’s 3rd round pick last year and already boasts an impressive repertoire for a 19-year old pitcher. Neuse and Luzardo are ranked as the 11th and 15th best prospects, respectively, in Oakland’s farm system.
This trade may end up being quite fruitful for both sides. The Nationals need immediate bullpen help and have added two quality relief pitchers for the stretch run, the postseason, and next year. Meanwhile, the A’s have freed up some money for next season and added a reliever in Treinen with bounce back potential and two young prospects with intriguing potential. It’s also possible that both teams continue to make moves between now and the trade deadline.