The Washington Nationals are interested in free agent relief pitcher Bud Norris, reports Jon Heyman. However, the Nats (who opened the year with a payroll north of $197 million, per Cot's Contracts) would like to stay under the $206 million luxury tax threshold.
League sources: Nats are interested in Bud Norris, who had 28 saves last year and is a free agent. A good fit. They need pen help but still desire to stay under the 206M threshold.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) April 9, 2019
Norris, 34, finished with 28 saves and a 3.59 ERA last year with the St. Louis Cardinals. He signed with the Toronto Blue Jays in time for spring training, but was released him from his minor league contract last week.
The Nationals (4-5) have a solid closer in Sean Doolittle, but the team's bullpen issues lie with the rest of their relievers. Trevor Rosenthal has had an awful start to the season. He has not retired any of the nine batters he's faced in any of his first four appearances and his ERA is infinity. Rosenthal, missed all of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and was primed to be the Nats' setup man this season.
On Sunday, Washington called up right-hander Joe Ross from Triple-A to help the Nats' early season bullpen struggles. Ross, 25, came in the ninth inning against the New York Mets but managed just one out and was pulled for Doolittle after giving up a three-run home run to Michael Conforto.
Right now, the Nationals bullpen is the worst in MLB -- they've allowed 18 runs in the eighth inning alone so honestly -- any kind of reinforcement is likely to help. There is always Craig Kimbrel -- one of the game's best closers -- who remains available, but signing him would almost certainly push the Nats beyond the luxury tax threshold so that's likely why they're going after a much cheaper option in Norris.