The Nationals announced that they have signed right-hander Dylan Floro to a one-year major league deal. They also announced their previously-reported pact with infielder/outfielder Nick Senzel. To open a spot on the 40-man roster, infielder Jeter Downs was designated for assignment. Per Jim Bowden of The Athletic, Floro will make $2.25MM plus incentives. Jon Morosi of MLB.com relays that Floro will get an extra $1.25MM if he pitches in 60 games next year.
Floro, 33 this month, has plenty of major league success but is coming off a frustrating 2023 campaign. From 2018 to 2022, he tossed 252 2/3 innings for the Reds, Dodgers and Marlins with an earned run average of 2.96 in that time. He struck out 21.6% of hitters faced, issued walks at a 7.6% clip and kept 50.9% of balls in play on the ground.
He was back with the Fish to start 2023 but had an earned run average of 4.54 through 39 2/3 innings. He was then traded to the Twins for another struggling reliever in Jorge López, with both clubs hoping for a change-of-scenery boost. But Floro posted a 5.29 ERA in 17 innings for Minnesota before getting released as the season was winding down.
There’s no denying that those results were less than ideal, but it’s possible that the baseball gods were responsible for them. Floro’s peripherals were still strong, as he struck out 23.4% of batters for the season as a whole, walked just 6.9% and got grounders at a strong 54.4% rate. But his .401 batting average on balls in play and 65.3% strand rate were both on the unlucky side of average. His 2.96 FIP and 3.34 SIERA suggest he may have been closer to his previous self than would appear on first glance. His 37.1% hard hit rate in 2023 was a career high but his 87.1 mph average exit velocity was actually lower than the year before.
The Nats are in rebuilding mode and aren’t expected to compete in 2024. They can give Floro a job in their bullpen and perhaps flip him to a contender at the deadline if he bounces back. This was a strategy the Nats deployed last season, signing Jeimer Candelario, Dominic Smith and Corey Dickerson to one-year deals. The deals for Smith and Dickerson didn’t work out, but Candelario bounced back nicely and was flipped to the Cubs at the deadline for two prospects.
Downs, 25, was claimed off waivers from the Red Sox about a year ago. Once a highly-touted prospect, he was part of the package that the Sox received in the Mookie Betts trade. But his performance in the past few years diminished his stock significantly. He played in just six games for the Nats in 2023, spending most of the year either on optional assignment or the injured list. In 60 minor league games this year, he walked in 16.6% of his plate appearances but also hit just three home runs. His .222/.363/.356 batting line translated to a wRC+ of 91.
The Nats will now have a week to trade him or pass him through waivers. He still has one option year remaining and less than a year of service time. Given his past status as a top prospect, some club could put in a claim and wouldn’t even need to commit an active roster spot to him.