The Nationals have signed reliever Carl Edwards Jr. to a minor league contract, reports Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post (on Twitter). As a minor league free agent, he remained eligible to sign during the ongoing lockout.
Edwards has pitched in the majors in each of the past seven seasons, although he’s only made twelve combined appearances the last two years. The lanky right-hander is best known for his early-career days with the Cubs, where current Nationals manager Dave Martinez worked as bench coach. Edwards was a solid contributor to Chicago’s World Series winning club in 2016, then worked over 50 innings of sub-3.00 ERA ball in each of the following two seasons. Between 2016-18, he posted a 3.03 ERA in 154 1/3 frames, striking out an elite 34.2% of opponents and holding batters to a .152/.271/.250 slash line.
Control was an issue for Edwards even at his best, as he doled out free passes at an elevated 13.5% clip. The walks spiked even more in 2019 (up to 16.7%) and his strikeout and swinging strike rates tumbled that season. The Cubs traded Edwards to the Padres at the deadline, but he quickly landed on the injured list due to a shoulder strain and was eventually cut loose. He signed with the Mariners that offseason but suffered a season-ending forearm strain after just five outings in 2020; Seattle let him go at the end of the year.
Last season, Edwards bounced between three organizations. He signed a minors deal with the Braves and made the big league club in May. Atlanta designated him for assignment after just one day, and Edwards elected free agency upon clearing waivers. He signed with the Blue Jays and was quickly selected to their MLB roster, but an oblique strain sent him to the injured list after only six games. Toronto released him rather than bring him back after he recovered. Edwards signed another minor league deal — this time with the White Sox — late in the season but didn’t get a big league call and reached the open market again at the end of the year.
The past three seasons have obviously been trying, particularly from a health perspective. Yet Edwards had a decent run of early-career success, and he’s still only 30 years old. It’s a sensible no-risk flier for the Nationals, and the South Carolina native should have a decent shot at cracking the big league bullpen if he impresses in Spring Training. Washington’s relief corps was a disaster last year, finishing 29th in ERA (5.08) and 25th in SIERA (4.32). Swingman Paolo Espino is the only returning reliever who worked 20+ innings with a SIERA below 4.00 in 2021.