Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
The Official Site of the Washington Nationals

news

Nationals News

Nats face easier task building bullpen for '18

MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- Building a bullpen has become sort of a winterly tradition in Washington, one that a year ago gave Nationals fans stress as the team searched for an established closer. This offseason should present a much easier task for the Nats, however, considering they already have two key relievers in place entering 2018.

Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle, both acquired from the A's before July's non-waiver Trade Deadline, will return to the Nats next season and should be in place to pitch the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, as they did at the end of 2017.

WASHINGTON -- Building a bullpen has become sort of a winterly tradition in Washington, one that a year ago gave Nationals fans stress as the team searched for an established closer. This offseason should present a much easier task for the Nats, however, considering they already have two key relievers in place entering 2018.

Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle, both acquired from the A's before July's non-waiver Trade Deadline, will return to the Nats next season and should be in place to pitch the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, as they did at the end of 2017.

Hot Stove Tracker

It gives the Nationals two established, veteran relievers they should be able to count on. Beyond that is where Washington will turn its attention to this offseason.

"We're in a more comfortable spot right now with our bullpen at this point in November than we were last year," general manager Mike Rizzo said earlier this month at the GM Meetings in Orlando, Fla.

Madson and Doolittle brilliantly filled their roles once they joined the Nats in the middle of the year despite immense pressure to save a bullpen that had struggled until their arrival. Madson responded by not allowing an earned run in his first 12 appearances and finished with a 1.37 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings for Washington. Doolittle settled in as the team's primary closer and posted a 2.40 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 30 appearances, which included 21 saves in 22 opportunities.

Video: CHC@WSH Gm5: Madson fans Russell swinging in the 8th

Brandon Kintzler, also acquired by the Nats in a trade in July, served as the next primary setup man. However, he is a free agent who is drawing interest from teams in need of a closer, according to a report from MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi. Kintzler closed games for the Twins for parts of two seasons before joining the Nationals. Washington has interest in a reunion with Kintzler, but if another team is willing to pay him to be its closer, the Nats are not likely to be able to match that.

In addition to Kintzler, Matt Albers and Oliver Perez -- a pair of veterans who both made the postseason roster -- are also free agents.

Right-handers Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover have been dynamic at times, but their reliability is in question because they haven't been able to stay off the disabled list. Both are expected to be ready when the Nats begin Spring Training in February, but keeping them healthy could be key in 2018.

Video: WSH@LAD: Glover fans Puig for save as tensions rise

Because of Kelley's and Glover's injury history, expect the Nationals to prioritize right-handed relievers this offseason instead of lefties. Trevor Gott, who also finished 2017 on the DL, and Wander Suero, who was added to the 40-man roster this month, are right-handed options within the organization.

The Nats feel more comfortable with what they have from the left side with Sammy Solis and Enny Romero on the roster. Matt Grace also made some strides as he stuck with the Major League team for a large portion of the season. Add Doolittle to the mix and the Nationals believe they are more set from that side.

And in general, the Nationals consider themselves to be at a better starting point with their bullpen now than they have been in recent years.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Washington Nationals