The Nationals remain open to upgrading their rotation, but their main priority now is the bullpen, and they’re especially interested in lefties Zach Britton, Justin Wilson and Brad Hand, FanRag’s Jon Heyman writes. Of the three, Britton might be the highest priority, Heyman writes. There appears to be considerable interest from other clubs, however (the Astros and Dodgers have both been closely connected to Britton), and it’s unclear whether the Orioles would trade Britton to a local rival.
We noted the Nationals’ strong interest in Wilson earlier today. The Tigers lefty has attracted plenty of interest from other clubs as well in a season in which he’s posted a 2.75 ERA, 12.6 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 while throwing his fastball at a career-high average of 96.1 MPH.
The Padres have said that they might hold onto Hand, who isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2019 season, and Heyman added in a tweet this afternoon that the Padres haven’t been overly impressed with the offers they’ve received and could consider keeping Hand. He’s in the midst of a second straight dominant season, however, with a 2.00 ERA, 11.7 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 over 54 innings, and his value might never be higher.
The Nationals have already bolstered their bullpen with the additions of Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle, and have at least one big hole in their rotation due to injuries to Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross. (The team recently promoted Erick Fedde, who might be able to capably fill one of those vacancies, but they still have Edwin Jackson in the other.) It appears they could be counting on a relatively quick return from Strasburg. As Heyman notes, they don’t want to trade top prospects Juan Soto or Victor Robles. Focusing on bullpen rather than rotation help, then, might be a way of limiting somewhat the prospect price they’ll have to pay for upgrades — while, of course, increasing the chance of avoiding some of the high-profile late-inning troubles they’ve had in recent playoff runs.