The Nationals do not have a on their roster at the moment, but they are building a nice setup crew.
Washington has reportedly agreed to a one-year contract with free agent right-hander Joe Blanton. The deal will pay him $4 million, which is exactly what he earned with the Dodgers last season. The Nationals have not confirmed the deal.
Blanton, 35, joins setup men Shawn Kelley and Blake Treinen in manager Dusty Baker’s bullpen. Youngster Koda Glover, whom many view as the team’s closer in waiting, also figures to work important innings this coming season.
The Nationals do not have a veteran closer after losing Mark Melancon to free agency, and right now Kelley is the odds on favorite to get the job. No matter who serves as closer, the point of adding Blanton was to add more depth for the late innings. There’s no such things as too many good relievers, after all.
Once the Blanton signing is finalized, Baker’s bullpen could shake out like so:
- Closer: Shawn Kelley
- Setup: Joe Blanton, Blake Treinen
- Middle: Koda Glover, Oliver Perez, Sammy Solis
- Long: Enny Romero
The Nationals also have Joe Nathan in camp as a non-roster player, though he is 42 and has been limited to only 6 2/3 innings over the last two seasons by his second career Tommy John surgery. If he throws well in spring training, the Nationals could take him north as another relief option.
Blanton voluntarily walked away from the game three years ago before getting the itch to play again in 2015. The Royals gave him a shot and he’s since reinvented himself as a slider heavy reliever. Blanton has a 2.65 ERA (150 ERA+) with 159 strikeouts in 152 innings since resurfacing two years ago.
Considering the price of quality bullpen help these days -- Melancon, Aroldis Chapman, and Kenley Jansen all smashed the previous reliever contract record this winter -- getting Blanton for a mere $4 million is a shrewd move. If he pitches like he did last year, it’s a bargain. And if not, it’ll be easy for the Nationals to cut bait and move on at that salary.