David Huzzard: A closer look at Nats’ closer troubles

A couple of days ago, the Nationals made a much-needed change by removing Blake Treinen from the closer’s role and replacing him with Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover. This is the current best option and the only option the Nationals truly have at this point. After the Nationals got outbid for Mark Melancon and Kenley Jansen, and Arlodis Chapman only wanted to play for the Yankees, the Nationals were no longer going to get a closer during the offseason.

Earlier in the offseason the Nationals’ trade for Adam Eaton had pushed the price up for any subsequent trades, and really almost no significant trades happened after that in all of baseball. In essence, the Nationals broke the trade market before they could make the move that would have solidified the team. Maybe they could have gotten David Robertson thrown in the deal with Eaton or maybe general manager Mike Rizzo never thought Robertson was better than what the Nats already had in-house. The answer to that may never be known, but where we are now is the Nationals are a very good team at risk of blowing any late lead.

This isn’t a problem that can’t be fixed. It is, in fact, a problem that can be fixed every single season. The sports pundits will yell and scream about the importance of the closer, citing how the Indians and Cubs played in the World Series because of Andrew Miller and Chapman while ignoring the fact that both players were trade deadline acquisitions. They helped the Indians and Cubs down the stretch and in the playoffs but they weren’t a part of the team for the majority of the season.

Take a look back at many recent World Series winners. While they all had solid closers by the time they played in the World Series, many of them made a switch beforehand. The 2010, 2012 and 2014 Giants won the World Series with three different closers. Relief pitching is highly volatile and few players have long careers. It may look like Rizzo completely forgot that the Nationals need the bullpen to make it through the season, but it is understandable that he bet on the talent in his own system instead of acquiring outside players that offered the same level of risk.

His risk has not paid off and the bullpen has cost the Nationals at least two games, but it is a problem with a solution and one that is solved by at least one team every year. It is likely that Rizzo is going to have to make a move he isn’t going to like to fix it. It cost the Indians Clint Frazier to acquire Miller and the Cubs dealt several top prospects, including Gleyber Torres, for Chapman. If Rizzo wants a solid back-of-the-bullpen piece at the deadline, it is going to cost him one of his top prospects and it is a deal that may come back to haunt the Nationals.

If things continue as they have, it is a deal that is going to have to be made, but it won’t be made until much closer to July 31. Until then, the Nationals and Nationals fans are going to have to suffer through blown saves and bullpen shakeups, hoping that something will work and someone will step up. It is unlikely that someone will and much more likely that a lucky team with a solid closer is going to end up with one of Rizzo’s prized prospects. Sometimes it’s just the price of doing business and the Nationals put themselves in this position. Until July 31, they’re stuck in it.

David Huzzard blogs about the Nationals at Citizens of Natstown. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHuzzard. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our regular roster of writers.

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