LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Nationals front office was working late Wednesday night at the Winter Meetings. And because of it, the club’s “Law Firm” bullpen will be reunited for the 2018 season.
The Nats and Brandon Kintzler agreed to a two-year contract in the wee hours, a source confirmed, ensuring the veteran right-hander will return and again team up with Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle to recreate the formidable late-inning trio that was so successful during the final two months of this season.
The deal, which is contingent upon Kintzler passing a physical, was first reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.
Quiet through the first three days of the Winter Meetings, the Nationals finally consummated their first transaction with only hours to go in the event at the Swan and Dolphin Resort after a long day spent meeting with representatives for several free agent relievers, who have become the most active participants of the Hot Stove League.
Not wanting to wait any longer after watching a host of bullpen arms sign in the last few days, the Nationals worked out terms with Kintzler, who like most of those before him was given a two-year contract. Financial terms weren’t immediately known.
Kintzler, 33, had a 3.03 ERA and 28 saves in 72 total appearances this season, the final 27 of which came with the Nationals following their July 31 acquisition of him from the Twins for minor-league lefty Tyler Watson. Though he pitched almost exclusively in the seventh inning - only one of his saves came with Washington - the veteran right-hander proved invaluable to a Nats bullpen that was completely overhauled midseason, with Madson and Doolittle taking over the eighth and ninth inning following their joint acquisition from the Athletics two weeks earlier.
There was thought Kintzler might wind up elsewhere this winter, especially if another team offered a chance to close, but the groundball specialist preferred to return to the role he thrived in with a Washington club that will be heavily favored to win its division for the fifth time in seven years.
With Kintzler returning, the Nationals cross off one of the biggest items on their offseason shopping list. They’ll head home from the Winter Meetings following Thursday morning’s Rule 5 draft still in search of a starting pitcher, a backup first baseman and a backup corner outfielder.