Bullpen help remains a primary need for the Nationals in what has been a rather quiet offseason in terms of pitching additions, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Nats are still discussing potential David Robertson trades with the White Sox. Adding Robertson, who is controlled for another two seasons at a total of $25MM, would provide the Nats with an experienced arm to shut down games and also give manager Dusty Baker some much-needed depth.
The problem in talks is somewhat familiar for the Nationals, per Rosenthal, as the team’s ownership is reluctant to take on all of the remaining money on Robertson’s contract. Beyond that, after parting with Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning to acquire the remaining five years of control over Adam Eaton, the Nats’ front office isn’t keen on surrendering top-tier prospects.
That Robertson is coming off his worst season since 2010 can’t make the Nationals any more eager to part with premium young talent. While the 31-year-old (32 in April) maintained his continually impressive strikeout rate (10.8 K/9) and saw his ground-ball rate rebound after a dip in 2015, Robertson averaged an uncharacteristic 4.6 walks per nine innings pitched. Robertson’s fastball velocity was consistent with his career marks, though, and he once again avoided spending any time on the disabled list, so there’s perhaps reason to hope that 2016’s control issues were a blip on the radar.
As it stands right now, Shawn Kelley and Blake Treinen are poised to be the two primary right-handers at the back of the Washington bullpen. They’ll be joined by left-handers Sammy Solis and Oliver Perez, with the remaining three spots somewhat up for grabs. Young right-handers Trevor Gott, A.J. Cole, Koda Glover, Austin Adams and Jimmy Cordero will all be in the mix for spots, as will more seasoned non-roster invitees Joe Nathan, Vance Worley, Jeremy Guthrie and Jacob Turner.
There are plenty of options for the Nationals at present, but there’s little in terms of certainty beyond the top few members of the relief corps. And, of course, it should be noted that Kelley’s season ended in frightening fashion, as an arm injury forced him from Game 5 of the National League Division Series. Both player and team expressed optimism in the following days that the injury was not serious, but that type of injury for any pitcher — let alone one that already has two Tommy John surgeries under his belt — is troubling nonetheless.
If the Nationals want to pursue other avenues to acquire late-inning help, those options have dwindled over the course of the winter. Sergio Romo and Joe Blanton are the top remaining right-handed relievers on the market (though Romo may be wrapping up a deal with the Dodgers), while the majority of the other trade options come with similar caveats to Robertson.