The move likely brings Kuhl’s tenure with Washington to an end. The 30-year-old veteran joined the Nationals on a minor league deal back in February, and Kuhl managed to crack the club’s Opening Day rotation after youngster Cade Cavalli was sidelined for the 2023 campaign by Tommy John surgery. Unfortunately, Kuhl struggled massively across five starts with the Nationals, posting an 9.41 ERA in 22 innings of work with a FIP of 6.91.
Kuhl was placed on the 15-day IL at the beginning of May after a difficult April with a sprained big toe in his right foot, and returned to the Nationals at the end of May in a multi-inning relief role. The results improved from there, but only slightly, as Kuhl allowed 15 runs (13 earned) in 16 1/3 innings of work out of the bullpen across 11 appearances. While those numbers are slightly inflated by two implosions against the Diamondbacks and Padres during which Kuhl allowed a combined eight runs in just 3 1/3 innings, it’s still easy to see why the Nationals pulled the plug on the veteran hurler.
Prior to his time in DC, Kuhl pitched for the Pirates in five seasons, swinging in and out of the rotation. He was a perfectly serviceable back-of-the-rotation arm during that time, with a 4.44 ERA (95 ERA+) in 439 2/3 innings of work during his time in Pittsburgh. Following his departure from the Pirates, Kuhl signed on with the Rockies on a one-year, $3MM deal that offered him a permanent spot in the Colorado rotation. Kuhl failed to impress with the opportunity, however, delivering a 5.72 ERA and 5.26 FIP across 27 starts with the Rockies.
Going forward, Kuhl seems likely to clear waivers and have the opportunity to choose between accepting an outright assignment to Triple-A with the Nationals or looking to catch on with another club on a minor league deal, though it’s at least theoretically possible that the Nationals could work out a trade with another club interested in Kuhl’s services.
As for Espino, the 36-year-old right-hander has been with the Nationals since 2020, pitching to a 4.56 ERA (88 ERA+) in 229 innings of work with the club split between the rotation and the bullpen. He’s posted similar numbers in Triple-A for the club this season, with an identical 4.56 ERA in 11 starts at the level this season. Espino figures to move back to the bullpen now that he’s with the big league club, as the Nationals stick with a starting five of Josiah Gray, Patrick Corbin, Trevor Williams, MacKenzie Gore, and Jake Irvin.