The Nationals have agreed to a one-year contract with Steve Cishek, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The contract comes with a $1.75MM guarantee, along with $500K in performance bonuses, per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
Signing a veteran like Cishek, who will turn 36 in June, is a fairly logical move for a club that underwent a massive fire sale at last year’s deadline. While the headliners of that selloff were Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, the bullpen also took a hit with the deals of Daniel Hudson and Brad Hand. That left the club with a reliever corps that largely consisted of unproven players with limited big league experience, with the exception of Will Harris. However, Harris turns 38 in August and only threw six innings last year before surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome ended his season, making him a question mark in his own right.
In contrast to that lack of reliability, Cishek has been remarkably consistent in his career. In each season since 2011, he has thrown at least 44 innings, with the exception of the shortened 2020 season, where he still logged 20 frames. Since his debut in 2010, he’s appeared in a total of 668 games, notching 644 1/3 innings with an ERA of 2.85, strikeout rate of 24.7%, walk rate of 9.6% and groundball rate of 49%. With the exception of 2020, he’s never had an ERA higher than 3.58 in a season.
Last year, Cishek signed a one-year deal with the Angels late in March for a salary of $1MM. He ended up making 74 appearances for the Halos, logging 68 1/3 innings with an ERA of 3.42, strikeout rate of 20.8% and walk rate of 13.3%. That walk rate was the worst of his career, and the strikeout rate just a hair above his previous career lows. That could perhaps be cause for some concern, but the Nationals still game him a modest raise on last year’s salary.
For a team that wiped millions from its books at the trade deadline last year, it’s still an incredible modest sum with little downside. If Cishek has yet another season like he’s had for the majority of his career, he could act as a stabilizing force on a pitching staff with high variance and perhaps be dealt to a contender at the deadline, as the team looks to bolster its farm and reload for their next competitive window.