Even after acquiring Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from the A’s yesterday, the Nationals remain interested in bolstering their bullpen, FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweets. Tigers lefty Justin Wilson is of particular interest to them, per MLB.com’s Jon Morosi (also via Twitter), and Morosi notes that the Nats could also yet add a starting pitcher in the wake of Joe Ross’ season-ending injury.
The addition of Madson and Doolittle to the Washington relief corps undoubtedly strengthens the group, but with young righty Koda Glover on the shelf, Blake Treinen shipped to the A’s as part of yesterday’s trade, and Shawn Kelley’s health currently in limbo, the Nats have plenty of room for further reinforcements. Treinen, Glover and Kelley were counted upon heavily to anchor the ’pen headed into the season, but that group has clearly underwhelmed, as has offseason pickup Joe Blanton, whose ERA sits at 7.04 even after tossing 6 1/3 scoreless frames across his past eight appearances. The Nats reportedly had “substantive” talks with the Marlins about David Phelps and AJ Ramos before acquiring Madson and Doolittle, though it’s uncertain if they’ll circle back on either of those arms.
It’s also not yet clear exactly how much of a priority rotation help will be for the Nats. It’s worth noting, however, that two of their top internal options, A.J. Cole and Austin Voth, have posted an ERA north of 6.00 in Triple-A this season despite track records of vastly superior performance at that level. The struggles of both 25-year-olds may have factored into the decision to give Edwin Jackson the first look in Ross’ vacant rotation spot tomorrow. Beyond the injury to Ross, the Nats have watched Tanner Roark struggle to a 4.98 ERA through 106 2/3 innings this season, so the back end of the rotation is hardly a strength at the moment.
There should be a handful of rental options available — Marco Estrada, Jaime Garcia, Trevor Cahill, Clayton Richard, Jhoulys Chacin among them — but with Ross out for most of the 2018 season as well, the Nats could conceivably look a bit longer-term if they wish. Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg are locked up to guaranteed deals next season, while Roark is arbitration-eligible and Gio Gonzalez looks like a lock to see his $12MM option vest, barring injury. (Gonzalez is 58 1/3 innings shy of the requisite 180 frames he’ll need.) The Nats could look short-term for now and reassess their needs this coming winter, but Rizzo didn’t part with any of his top-tier prospects in landing Madson and Doolittle, so he should still have the firepower to think bigger and do some offseason shopping in advance (so to speak) — if there’s a longer-term asset that the Nationals covet.