LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Nationals were able to get their left-handed reliever on Wednesday afternoon, acquiring Jerry Blevins from the Athletics for outfielder Billy Burns, Washington's Minor League Player of the Year this past season .
Blevins, who is arbitration-eligible, had a 3.15 ERA for the Athletics this past season, allowing a .253 batting average to lefty hitters. His best season in Oakland was in 2012, when he went 5-1 with a 2.48 ERA and held lefty hitters to .182 batting average. Blevins has a fastball that can go from 89 to 92 mph. He also has an above-average changeup.
"He is a younger controllable-type of guy that would have more than a year [before he becomes a free agent]," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "Blevins can pitch a full inning, he can pitch against right-handed hitters and left-handed hitters. He has pitched four outs, so we feel good about that part."
Blevins found out about the trade from the Athletics around noon ET. He was initially shocked, because he did not pay attention to any of the trade rumors.
"I haven't had time to really digest [the Nationals'] needs as far as how I fit into that," Blevins said. "I've been focused on what to do with Oakland next year, but I'm really excited about D.C. I will work my butt off. I'll give my all every outing and do whatever they ask and need from me."
The Nationals were interested in free agents such as Oliver Perez, J.P. Howell, Boone Logan and Scott Downs. But after finding out what the going rate was to sign those players, Rizzo decided to get a lefty reliever via trade. The Nationals made an offer to one free-agent reliever, though Rizzo wouldn't say which player.
The Nats were looking at several trade candidates. Not only did they have interest in Blevins, they also had interest in Pirates left-hander Justin Wilson. As it turned out, Rizzo made his seventh trade with Oakland in three years.
"When we inquired about a lot of guys in the free-agent market that would fit the criteria that we were looking for, we found that we should shift our attention toward the trade market," Rizzo said.
Blevins said he was sad to leave the Athletics, as it's the only team he's known in the Major Leagues. But he is happy to be reunited with left-hander Gio Gonzalez and right-hander Craig Stammen. Blevins and Gonzalez were teammates in Oakland, while Stammen and Blevins were college teammates at the University of Dayton.
"Oakland is the only place I've known, but I'm really excited to know D.C. I have a couple of friends on the team," Blevins said.
As for Burns, Nationals assistant general manager Doug Harris recently called the switch-hitting outfielder a game-changer with his legs. Burns can do more than just steal bases. He hit .315 with 37 RBIs, 96 runs scored, a .425 on-base percentage and 74 stolen bases this past season.
"This year, he certainly put himself in a good position," Harris said about Burns. "He has an elite skill set with the speed element. Where it goes, we shall see."
With the emergence of outfielders Michael Taylor, Brian Goodwin and Steven Souza in the Minor League system, the Nationals could afford to trade Burns.
"You talk about a scouting success story. He was a 32nd-round pick," Rizzo said about Burns. "He is a speed guy that we drafted, developed, made him a switch-hitter in the professional ranks. Our development [people] did a terrific job on this guy. He has game-changing speed. As the rest of his game progresses, he'll become a solid player for [the A's]."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats.