FEB. 19: Jon Heyman reports (via Twitter) that Belisle’s deal contains a $1.25MM base salary, plus incentives, in the Majors. The veteran right-hander can opt out of his contract on either March 27 or June 1 if he has not been added to the Major League roster, Heyman adds.
FEB. 17: The Nationals announced that they have signed veteran reliever Matt Belisle to a minor league contract and invited him to Major League Spring Training. The 35-year-old right-hander is a client of CAA Sports.
Belisle spent the 2015 season in the Cardinals’ bullpen and enjoyed strong bottom-line results in 33 2/3 innings, but his control took a notable step backwards, and his season was shortened significantly due to a lengthy DL stint that stemmed from right elbow inflammation. When healthy enough to take the mound, Belisle posted a strong 2.67 ERA, averaging 6.7 strikeouts and 4.0 walks per nine innings pitched to go along with an impressive 52.4 percent ground-ball rate.
Looking a bit further back, Belisle is perhaps one of the few relievers that can lay claim to consistently solid results over an extended period of calling Coors Field home; from 2010-14, Belisle totaled 381 2/3 innings for the Rockies, registering a 3.75 ERA with 7.6 K/9 against 1.9 BB/9. As Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post notes, the only pitcher in all of Major League Baseball to appear in more games during that five-year stretch was Tyler Clippard.
At his peak, Belisle averaged about 92.5 mph on his heater, but his fastball sits more 90-91 mph now. He’ll hope to join a bullpen where Jonathan Papelbon will, of course, handle closer’s duties. Offseason signee Yusmeiro Petit should have a multi-inning role, and trade acquisition Trevor Gott should factor into the setup group along with free-agent pickups Shawn Kelley and Oliver Perez. Incumbent hurlers Blake Treinen and Felipe Rivero could factor into the mix as well, while right-hander Aaron Barrett is recovering from September Tommy John surgery.