FEB. 1, 12:50am: Albers’ contract comes with a $1.15MM base salary and up to $600K worth of incentives, MLBTR has learned (Twitter links). He’ll take home $75K for reaching 25 and 30 appearances, an additional $100K for reaching 35 and 40 appearances, and an extra $125K for his 45th and 50th appearances. Albers also has opt-out dates on March 27 and June 1.
JAN. 31, 10:15pm: Nathan’s contract has a March 24 opt-out date, Heyman further reports (Twitter link)
1:26pm: The Nationals have announced minor-league deals with veteran righties Joe Nathan and Matt Albers. Both will receive invitations to MLB camp. Nathan can earn a $1.25MM salary if he cracks the roster, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (Twitter links), with incentives that could push the value past $3MM. Albers’ contract terms have yet to be reported.
It’s tempting to wonder whether the 42-year-old Nathan might factor into the Nats’ still-open closer’s role, though the lack of a 40-man spot suggests that’s not exactly an expected outcome. He does bring 377 career saves with him to D.C., but missed the vast bulk of the past two seasons after requiring Tommy John surgery early in 2015.
Nathan did, however, return to the big league hill last year, striking out nine and walking four batters without giving up a run over 6 1/3 innings. It was a brief sample, but he generated a healthy 14.4% swinging-strike rate and averaged 91.3 mph on his four-seamer.
Last we saw Nathan over a full season, he scuffled to a 4.81 ERA for the Tigers back in 2014. But he turned in an outstanding campaign just one year prior, when he gave the Rangers 64 2/3 innings of 1.39 ERA pitching with 10.2 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9.
There have been some ups and downs of late for Albers, too. Now 34, he was knocked around last year, posting a 6.31 ERA with 5.3 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 for the White Sox. Before that, however, Albers was quite effective for a rather lengthy stretch; between 2012 and 2015, he spun 170 2/3 frames of 2.32 ERA ball.
Though ERA estimators didn’t quite support those numbers, they did view him as a solid pen arm. Despite a subpar whiff rate, Albers has long generated lots of grounders with his oft-used sinker.
[Related: Updated Nationals’ Depth Chart]
These veteran hurlers figure to compete for spots in the Nationals’ 2017 pen, but Washington’s pen mix is still in some flux. Though Nathan and Albers figure to boost the depth while providing competition, an undeniable need, it remains to be seen what the organization will do about the ninth inning.