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Hudson excited to rejoin Nats on 2-year deal

@zachsilver
January 14, 2020

WASHINGTON – Daniel Hudson thought his time in Washington was over. When the Nationals let the right-hander know they were signing Will Harris to a three-year deal, he started to have doubts about a possible reunion. “I pretty much thought that that closed the book on it,” Hudson said. Then,

WASHINGTON – Daniel Hudson thought his time in Washington was over. When the Nationals let the right-hander know they were signing Will Harris to a three-year deal, he started to have doubts about a possible reunion.

“I pretty much thought that that closed the book on it,” Hudson said.

Then, the Nats got back in touch with Hudson the next day. Instead of moving on, Hudson and the Nationals agreed to a two-year deal, which was finalized Tuesday, that brought the right-hander back to the club he closed out the World Series for. It also bolstered a Washington bullpen that appears to be much improved from Opening Day last season.

Hudson’s deal is worth $11 million, a source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, and includes $1 million in incentives based on games finished.

“Recreating what we had is going to be tough, but I feel like I want to be a part of that,” Hudson said. “From the beginning of free agency, I made it known to my agent that I’d be open to going back, and luckily, they had the interest in me as well. The window to continue winning in D.C. is definitely still open, and I’d like to be a part of that.”

In March 2019, the Nationals had few options to turn to in the late innings, other than left-hander Sean Doolittle. They hoped right-handers Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal would take on those roles, but they both struggled. Now that Hudson, who posted a 1.44 ERA in 24 games after being acquired by the Nats at last season's Trade Deadline, returns, he'll be a strong late-inning option along with Doolittle and Harris.

“Hopefully the back end of that bullpen is exciting,” Hudson said.

Hudson's two-year deal is a bit of a departure from the norm for the Nationals. General manager Mike Rizzo has said that midseason trades for bullpen arms can sometimes be preferable, so the team can have a better feel for a reliever's real-time value. The club has often balked at multi-year deals for relievers, which can be risky.

But that was not the case for Harris, who Rizzo feels brings pedigree and durability, and evidently not for Hudson, either.

“[Hudson's] makeup passes the test for us,” Rizzo said last Saturday at the club’s Winterfest. “We want that type of player in the clubhouse. We made it a point to get him back, because we needed his presence back and we wanted to upgrade ourselves in the back end of the bullpen.”

The second year of the contract was a big factor in Hudson returning to D.C., rather than take one of the other offers he had. That's because of the righty's injury history, which includes a pair of Tommy John surgeries that limited him to 12 games from 2012-14.

It reassured Hudson that he wanted to be with the Nationals because of their willingness to offer a two-year deal, on top of the support he received when he missed Game 1 of the National League Championship Series while joining his wife, Sara, for the birth of their daughter. Now with his eighth organization since being drafted in 2008, the 32-year-old Hudson will have two years of normalcy.

“To be able to have that security was definitely a huge selling point for me,” Hudson said. “For them to take care of me and my family was a huge factor in me wanting to come back there.”

Hudson had a 2.47 ERA in 69 appearances between the Blue Jays and Nationals last season, after being released by the Angels during Spring Training. He was immediately put in a high-leverage role upon his arrival to Washington, and even more so when Doolittle battled knee, velocity and control problems in late August.

Working out of countless jams, Hudson had 10 saves and finished 20 games for the Nationals, including the postseason. He closed out both games of a Sept. 24 doubleheader vs. the Phillies that helped the Nats reach the postseason, recorded three saves between the National League Division Series and NL Championship Series and finished Game 7 of the World Series.

“We threw [him] in the fire early, often and daily once we got him,” Rizzo said.

If things go right -- the back end of Washington's bullpen holds up its end of the bargain, Tanner Rainey and Wander Suero take steps forward, Hunter Strickland and Roenis Elías are productive -- the Nats could not only have improved their bullpen, but they may have also assembled one of the better units in the NL that, as it stands now, could look like this:

LHP Sean Doolittle
RHP Will Harris
RHP Daniel Hudson
RHP Tanner Rainey
LHP Roenis Elías
RHP Wander Suero
RHP Hunter Strickland
A battle among RHPs Erick Fedde, Joe Ross, Austin Voth, Javy Guerra and Kyle Finnegan

Zachary Silver is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Baltimore/Washington. Follow him on Twitter @zachsilver.