As they look to improve their beleaguered bullpen, the Nationals are attempting to acquire both right-hander Ryan Madson and lefty Sean Doolittle from the Athletics, reports Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network (Twitter links).
At 53-36, the Nationals own one of the majors’ best records and lead the National League East by 9.5 games, but their success has come in spite of a horrid bullpen. With Blake Treinen, Joe Blanton, Koda Glover, Shawn Kelley and Sammy Solis having dealt with injuries and/or posted poor numbers, Nationals relievers entered play Saturday last in the majors in both ERA (5.18) and fWAR (minus-0.9). Clearly, then, Washington’s going to have to bolster its relief corps this summer if it’s going to make a serious push for a World Series in October.
Both Madson and Doolittle would seemingly help the Nationals’ cause, given that they’ve been excellent this season. The 36-year-old Madson has bounced back from a middling 2016 to resemble the stellar reliever he was in his halcyon days with the Phillies and Royals. Over 38 1/3 innings in 2017, the hard-throwing Madson has logged a 2.11 ERA, 8.92 K/9, 1.41 BB/9 and a sterling ground-ball percentage (55.9). He has also induced infield pop-ups at an 11.8 percent rate, further adding to his appeal.
Doolittle, 30, has put recent shoulder issues behind him to record a 3.38 ERA and ridiculous strikeout and walk numbers (13.08 K/9, .84 BB/9) through 21 1/3 frames. While Doolittle – who, like Madson, brings a mid-90s fastball to the table – hasn’t generated many ground balls (35.6 percent), he has offset that with an absurd infield fly rate (21.7 percent).
With the A’s at 40-50 and well out of the playoff picture, dealing both Madson and Doolittle by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline seems like a strong possibility. Neither player would be a rental for an acquiring club – Madson is on a $7.5MM salary through next season, and Doolittle is controllable on an eminently affordable deal through 2020.