The Nationals’ bullpen, now in the midst of competition a year after it owned the second highest ERA in the Majors, gained some clarity with the unconditional release of Hunter Strickland on Saturday, making him a free agent.
The move came as part of a flurry of other roster decisions, which included reassigning seven players to Minor League camp and optioning four to Triple-A Fresno.
Strickland, 31, failed to find his footing after he landed with Washington as a Deadline acquisition from Seattle in 2019. The 31-year-old right-hander allowed five home runs and 12 runs in 21 innings (24 outings, 5.14 ERA) before allowing three homers in two postseason innings.
The reliever hoped that he would be able to settle down this spring, coming off a season in which he missed almost four months due to a Grade 2 strain in his right lat muscle before landing with Washington in a package deal with Roenis Elías. But Grapefruit League action did not treat him much kinder; Strickland was tagged for nine runs (eight earned) with three homers in 6 2/3 innings (seven outings) in exhibitions this February and March.
Sean Doolittle, Will Harris, Daniel Hudson, Tanner Rainey, Wander Suero and Elías are all near locks to make up the relief corps. Harper, acquired from the Twins in a January trade, has allowed four runs (three earned) in six innings while striking out five, and Finnegan, a career Minor Leaguer, has allowed three in five innings, while walking three and striking out three.
Ross, Voth and Fedde have all impressed during their spring trials, as none own an ERA north of 2.45; Voth leads with a 1.29 mark in seven innings. Fedde’s case may be hampered by the fact that he is the lone one with Minor League options remaining, but whoever loses out could very well be primed to remain on the team as a long-innings reliever or spot starter.
Joining Strickland in being moved Saturday, through options to Triple-A, were infielder Jake Noll, who was on last year’s Opening Day roster, left-hander Ben Braymer -- No. 22 on Washington’s Top 30 Prospect list -- right-hander Kyle McGowin and right-handed reliever Aaron Barrett, whose return to the Majors last year went viral.
Third basemen Jacob Wilson and Brandon Snyder, catcher Taylor Gushue, two-way player JB Shuck and right-handers Bryan Bonnell, Dakota Bacus and Wil Crowe -- the club’s No. 4 prospect -- were all reassigned to Minor League camp.
David Hernandez, a 34-year-old right-hander signed to a Minor League deal this offseason, was also unconditionally released.