Posted on July 31, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
Desperate for bullpen help all season, the Washington Nationals made sure the trade deadline didn’t pass without doing something about it. On Wednesday, the Nationals added three relievers in two trades, acquiring Daniel Hudson from the Blue Jays, as well as Roenis Elias and Hunter Strickland from the Mariners. Washington can only hope those trades stabilize their bullpen enough down the stretch to get them back to the postseason.
Elias and Strickland come from Seattle in exchange for pitching prospects Aaron Fletcher, Elvis Alvarado, and Taylor Guilbeau. Fletcher, who is currently at double-A, is Washington’s no. 21 ranked prospect, according to MLB.com. Guilbeau is Washington’s no. 15 ranked prospect and was promoted to triple-A earlier this year. Seattle doesn’t get any major pieces from this trade, but they get a couple of decent pitching prospects out of it.
Elias is 4-2 with a 4.40 ERA in 44 appearances for Seattle this year. The lefty has served as Seattle’s closer this season, saving 14 games in 16 chances. The Nationals have Sean Doolittle entrenched as their closer, so they won’t ask Elias to serve in that role. But the fact that he’s pitched in high-pressure situations this year should make him comfortable pitching as a setup man in the 7th and 8th innings. He also has two more years of arbitration, making him a long-term addition to Washington’s bullpen.
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Strickland is also under contract through 2021, so he should help the Nationals beyond this season. The caveat with Strickland is that he went on the Injured List in early April with a lat strain. He’s not yet returned but has started pitching in minor league rehab games, so he should return soon. More importantly, Strickland owns a 2.98 career ERA and saved 14 games with San Francisco last year, making him a candidate to pitch late in games once he returns to full health.
Meanwhile, Hudson came over from Toronto in exchange for pitcher Kyle Johnson, Washington’s 27th ranked prospect, according to MLB.com, to Toronto to get him. The 32-year-old righty has quietly had a strong season with the Blue Jays. In 45 appearances, he’s 6-3 with an ERA of 3.00. Unlike Elias and Strickland, he will be a free agent after the season. However, Hudson is having arguably the best season of his career, and the Nationals hope they can take advantage of that.
These three additions have a chance to completely reshape Washington’s bullpen down the stretch. The Nationals have struggled all year to find competent setup men in front of Doolittle. Veteran Fernando Rodney has provided a slight lift over the past month But few others have provided any kind of consistency. Elias, Hudson, and Strickland, if he’s healthy, could all provide an upgrade over the relievers the Nationals have relied on all season.
Ironically, the Nationals made these three trades on a day when Doolittle took the loss in a game against the Braves. That loss dropped Washington 6.5 games behind Atlanta in the NL East. The Nationals retain possession of a Wild Card spot. However, it will be a challenge holding onto that spot the rest of the way without a competent bullpen. While they didn’t land a high-end reliever, the Nationals added much-needed depth to their bullpen. If Washington ends up in the postseason, there’s a good chance the likes of Elias, Hudson, and Strickland will have made a difference.