The Nationals announced that right-hander Chad Kuhl has been signed to a minor league deal, and invited to Washington’s big league Spring Training camp.
Kuhl had a 5.72 ERA and well below-average strikeout (17.8%) and walk (9.4%) rates over 137 innings with the Rockies last season, and he also missed most of August due to a hip strain. The righty was again placed on the injured list right at the very end of the season with a triceps strain, and it isn’t known how that injury might’ve impacted Kuhl’s shaky performance in September, or how it affected his free agent market.
Over six MLB seasons, Kuhl has a 4.74 ERA over 576 2/3 frames with the Rockies and Pirates. 2017 was Kuhl’s best year, but that 2.2 fWAR performance over 157 1/3 innings with Pittsburgh is the clear high mark of an inconsistent career. Since that borderline breakout season, Kuhl has thrown only 348 2/3 total innings — he missed 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery — and amassed 1.0 fWAR.
Even despite these lackluster numbers, Kuhl has shown some flashes of being able to pitch at a higher level, and he has been frequently mentioned as a trade candidate during his career (though, pitching for non-contenders has also played a role in that status). The contract with Washington represents another new chapter in his career, and while the Nats also seem on pace for a losing season, Kuhl can at least work in a more normalized pitching environment than the thin air of Coors Field, or even the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League at the Triple-A level.
Of course, pitching for the Rockies isn’t the sole reason Kuhl’s 2022 season was such a struggle. As per Statcast, his sinker was the single least-effective pitch thrown in the majors last season, with a -26 Run Value. Kuhl threw his sinker 42.2% of the time, the most of any of his offerings. Compounding the problem, Kuhl’s average fastball velocity was 92.8 mph, a significant drop from his 94.8 mph career average in his previous five seasons.
The Nationals’ coaching staff will have plenty of fixes to make as they take a look at Kuhl in camp, though the minor league deal represents a pretty risk-free move for the team. If Kuhl can get on track, he provides a good veteran depth arm for a rotation that will lean heavily on younger pitchers. The District is hoping that at least one of Josiah Gray, MacKenzie Gore, or Cade Cavalli can take a step forward and become a reliable MLB-level pitcher in 2023. As for more seasoned hurlers, the Nationals simply don’t know what to expect from Patrick Corbin after three mediocre seasons, or whether or not Stephen Strasburg can finally get healthy and be a regular contributor.
To this end, the Nats signed Trevor Williams to a two-year deal earlier this winter, adding some veteran experience to the rotation mix. Swingman Erasmo Ramirez was also re-signed, and Wily Peralta (who has worked as a starter in the past) was signed on a minor league deal as further depth for the rotation or bullpen. While the Nationals’ priority is on getting a look at their younger starters, the rotation is enough of an open book that there’s plenty of opportunity for Kuhl or other pitchers to make a mark in Spring Training.
Nicknames: Sasquatch or Chet
Hope he rebounds after a brutal year in Colorado. He should have a chance at the rotation with the inevitable Strasburg injury that will happen in May.
He needs needed to go to the pen.
I doubt Strasburg will pitch at all this year. There is still no timetable for him.
I like it. Kuhl and Williams will help save innings from the young guys.
Anyone know if Strasburg is going to pitch this year?
Strasburg is rehabbing. He will pitch when he is ready. Could be early in the season or maybe not. Could be successful or maybe not. Could go back on IL after he comes back or maybe not. Hope that helps.
Kuhl has proven he can be an innings eater, but with middling results. Won’t be surprised to see him pitching sometime for the Nats this coming season.
Keep an eye out for Thad Ward in Washington too. Nice Rule V pick up from Boston. Not sure if he’ll start or relieve for them but it won’t surprise me if he stays with the Nats for the entire season (vs. being returned to Boston).
Kuhl is yet another former Pirate pitcher who is something of a mystery in that every so often, he’ll have that dominant performance and then seemingly regress over the next 3 or 4 starts
The guy throws hard but apparently has never been able to master control. I wouldn’t be surprised if a pitching coach somewhere could turn him around but then, I’ve been saying that for five years now
Hope he turns it around this season
If asked to named the 3 worst teams he could go to and get improved, well he’s been to all 3.
@YourDreamGM Makes you wonder why Tampa hasn’t signed him and turn him into a project Tampa Bay has one of the best “fixes” for pitchers in the game. Maybe he’s too “broken” to be fixed.
Not a good candidate. Teams want years of cheap control. Doesn’t help that he refused to be a reliever. I don’t blame him. Not that he isn’t too broken. He could have that against him as well.
@YourDreamGM Maybe Tampa was a bad choice but one of the better choices to have a quick “fix”. Other teams including Houston, Atlanta, and to some degree LA Dodgers, if you think Tampa wouldn’t sign a guy like Kuhl to fix. Heck Minnesota as turned around a few pitchers as well. Point is, Top 5 organizations that have pretty good turnover rate amongst veterans, have passed on Kuhl. So, he must be too broken to be fixed. I was at the game in Pittsburgh when he made his debut. Guy was amazing then and a few other times I made it to a game. After his injury, he wasn’t the same and kept trying to hard without a positive outcome. Had he changed the way he threw the ball and when to throw his heater, he could have been a top tier pitcher. He had the goods but I think he ruined his arm by failing to change his approach and protecting his arm. I believe he is broken goods and no top notch pitching coach will want to work with him. He had his chances and still went out pitching like he did 6 years ago.
I think there are always as good or better options available. Doesn’t seem as promising as he once was to me either. If he is still only open to being a starter that eliminates most teams. No team control left eliminates most teams. I don’t see these teams missing out. He will have to figure it out with desperate teams or go over seas. Or just go away.
Motor City Beach Bum
Didn’t he have a good first quarter (half?) to the point that there was talk of them extending him and trade deadline chatter on him?
He did for sure. Was really knock-out good at the beginning of 2022. Then it all fell apart. really hard to say why.
Hip strain. I like this pick-up for the Nats. Kuhl is perhaps better than decent “if healthy”
Altitude wore him down.
At the end of May, he had a 1.90 ERA and 3.66 FIP. Then his ERA slowly started to creep up month after month.
I think it’s great low risk signing. I could def see Kuhl eat a lot of innings if healthy. I think Trevor William’s will have a decent year too. I root for him..both of them really.
Lead the National League in shut outs last year.