The Nationals, in clear need of bullpen help as the July 31 trade deadline nears, are “considering” Royals left-hander Jake Diekman and other relievers, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (video link).
The 32-year-old Diekman’s an obvious trade candidate for the rebuilding Royals, who likely signed him to a $2.75MM guarantee last winter with the intention of flipping him during the season. However, Diekman’s production in Kansas City has been a mixed bag to this point.
On one hand, Diekman has logged a horrid 5.06 ERA with a similarly unappealing 5.3 BB/9 over 37 1/3 innings. On the other, the former Phillie, Ranger and Diamondback has continued to pump 95-plus mph heat, generated more swinging strikes than ever (16.4 percent), posted a 3.68 FIP/3.95 xFIP, amassed 13.02 strikeouts per nine and recorded the majors’ eighth-best infield fly rate for relievers (20 percent). Diekman has also been tough on lefties, whom he has held to a .278 weighted on-base average, while somewhat keeping righties in check (.315 wOBA).
Diekman, who’s owed less than $1MM through season’s end, would be a reasonably priced addition for a wild card-leading Washington team trying to stay below the luxury tax. The club’s less than $3MM under the $206MM line as of now, according to Jason Martinez of Roster Resource, so it may not be in position to make any expensive splashes before the deadline. Having exceeded the threshold in each of the previous two years, the Nationals will have to pay a 50 percent tax for every dollar they go over it this season.
Financial concerns aside, this has been an adverse campaign for Washington’s bullpen, which ranks last in the NL in ERA (6.02). 20th in K/BB ratio (2.26) and 21st in FIP (5.55). For the most part, the Nationals have struggled to find answers in front of closer Sean Doolittle. The recently signed Fernando Rodney has joined Wander Suero, Tony Sipp, Matt Grace and Javy Guerra in performing decently of late, thus helping the team charge up the standings, but its relief corps is still crying out for fortification.
Should the Nationals turn to Diekman, it’s possible he’d become more than a late-2019 solution for the club. Diekman’s potentially controllable through next season on a $5.75MM mutual option, though his employer could decline it in favor of a $750K buyout.