The Nationals have signed right-hander Reed Garrett to a minor league contract, reports Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post (Twitter link). He’s already at the team’s spring facility in West Palm Beach.
Garrett, 29, was the Tigers’ selection in the 2018 Rule 5 Draft. Coming over from the Rangers organization, he made Detroit’s Opening Day roster and held a spot through mid-May before ultimately clearing waivers and being returned to Texas. Garrett started the 2019 season with 8 2/3 innings of one-run ball out of the bullpen, but the eight hits and seven walks he yielded during that gave reason for skepticism. Indeed, he regressed quickly as those command struggles continued and the hits piled up; Garrett yielded runs in each of his next six appearances — a total of 13 in just 6 2/3 frames.
Although his struggles continued with the Rangers’ Triple-A club that season, Garrett’s raw stuff drew some attention overseas. He’s spent the past two seasons with the Seibu Lions of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, where he’s worked to a 3.46 ERA with a 21.8% strikeout rate and an 11.1% walk rate through 106 2/3 innings of relief.
Garrett carries just a 4.48 ERA in 64 1/3 Triple-A frames and a similar 4.65 mark throughout his minor league career as a whole. However, as Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs noted following that Rule 5 selection back in 2018, Garrett’s velocity spiked following a move from the rotation to the bullpen in 2017, and he has a pair of above-average breaking pitchers. Time will tell whether he earns a second big league look with the Nationals, but he’ll give them some depth with plenty of experience, at the very least.
At present, there appears to be plenty of opportunity in the Washington bullpen. There’s no set closer in place, although 30-year-old Kyle Finnegan notched 11 saves last year following Daniel Hudson’s trade to San Diego. Hard-throwing righty Tanner Rainey was one of manager Dave Martinez’s go-to options in 2019-20, but he was clobbered for a 7.39 ERA in 31 2/3 innings last year. Veteran Will Harris missed nearly all of the 2021 season after a pair of operations — the first to remove a blood clot in Spring Training, and the second to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome in late May. Right-handers Erick Fedde, Austin Voth and Patrick Murphy could all have the inside track on bullpen spots by virtue of the fact that they’re out of minor league options, but none pitched particularly well in 2021.
Suffice it to say, Garrett should have his chances to impact the big league roster if he can find some early success — be it in Spring Training (whenever games start) or early in the Triple-A season. The lack of established relievers in the Nats’ bullpen also likely portends some future acquisitions when the lockout lifts, whether they’re guaranteed big league deals, trade/waiver claims, or some additional non-roster invitees.