The Nationals finally began to address their horrific bullpen problems Sunday, acquiring Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from the Athletics for Blake Treinen and a pair of Minor Leaguers. Let this year's version of reliever roulette begin.Washington is counting on the two new additions to help stabilize its bullpen, a unit
The Nationals finally began to address their horrific bullpen problems Sunday, acquiring Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from the Athletics for Blake Treinen and a pair of Minor Leaguers.
Let this year's version of reliever roulette begin.
Washington is counting on the two new additions to help stabilize its bullpen, a unit that ranks last the Majors with a 5.34 ERA. But even after the trade, one National League executive said he believed general manager Mike Rizzo might not be done reshaping his relief corps.
"Both guys they got were marginal," the executive said, predicting that the Nats will still be in the mix for one of the other available closers around the league.
According to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, the Nationals had "engaged in substantial talks" with the Marlins about both AJ Ramos and David Phelps, but Washington wound up making the deal with Oakland instead. Still, it's notable that the Marlins have two bullpen arms on the market and could deal them together just as the Athletics moved Doolittle and Madson in the same trade.
Reaction to the Nats' acquisitions was mixed, however. An AL general manager thought Washington "paid a very reasonable price" for the pair of arms, adding by dealing both pitchers in the same trade, the move "certainly thinned the herd of available arms" on the market.
But did it, really?
Closers Player Page for David Robertson, Ramos, Addison Reed and Justin Wilson are all seemingly available, as are All-Star setup men Brad Hand and Pat Neshek. But Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network reported Sunday that the Orioles have informed teams that they will listen to offers for relievers Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Darren O'Day, which would add three premier bullpen arms to what is already a pretty strong market at the position.
"There will be more relief pitchers on the move for sure," the AL GM said.
According to a source, scouts with the Cubs, D-backs, Dodgers and Astros were all at Camden Yards this weekend to watch the three relievers. Both Britton and Brach are eligible for arbitration for the final time next season, giving teams a full year of control beyond this season. O'Day is signed through 2019, earning $9 million in each of the next two seasons.
Robertson was nearly traded to the Nationals before the season for two players, one of whom was reportedly left-hander Jesus Luzardo, who was dealt to Oakland on Sunday as part of the Doolittle-Madson trade. Like Britton and Brach, Robertson is signed through the 2018 season, when he'll earn $13 million.
That means nearly all of the notable relievers currently available have at least one more year of control beyond 2017, with only Reed and Neshek headed for free agency of the 10 names listed above. A year ago, the Yankees were able to deal Andrew Miller and Albertin Chapman for a huge haul of prospects, as Mark Melancon was the only other big-time reliever available. Miller had two additional years of control, while Chapman was headed for free agency.
This year, the market is flush with talent, which could make it difficult for teams to demand huge returns for bullpen arms -- even those with controllable years -- as buyers can simply shop elsewhere if they deem the prices too high for their taste.
In other words, it's a buyer's market when it comes to relievers. Now if we could just figure out who the buyers are, things could begin taking better shape.
In addition to the Cubs, D-backs, Dodgers and Astros, the Yankees, Rays, Rangers and Twins are among the teams seeking bullpen upgrades.
Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.