WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - On the heels of a 29-save season, an All-Star appearance and some high-profile outings in the Nationals bullpen from August through October, Brandon Kintzler figured he’d have plenty of suitors this winter, not to mention a contract commensurate with those signed by many other prominent relievers.
In the end, perhaps suffering from advanced metrics that don’t love him as much as relievers who strike out more batters, Kintzler settled for a deal to return to the Nats that guarantees him $5 million in 2018, with a $5 million player option or a $10 million club option for 2019.
Not necessarily the money he was hoping for, but in the end, he can’t complain about signing a contract in mid-December, not when so many other free agents remain unsigned in mid-February.
“I mean, if my name’s not Wade Davis, it’s a stressful market,” he said. “I thought I would have done a lot better. I thought there would be more teams that wanted me. I don’t know, these computer programs everyone uses, I guess ... fantasy baseball. It wasn’t great. But I’m glad we got it done then. I wouldn’t want to be out there right now. That’s a stressful situation.”
Fourteen years in professional baseball, with a couple of independent league stints mixed in there, has changed Kintzler’s mindset about the industry. Earlier in his career, he might have waited out the winter, expecting a better offer to come. But when the Nationals came calling with that offer, and a chance to rejoin a bullpen that became an integral part of the club by season’s end, he didn’t have to think too much before signing on the dotted line.
“Great team, great clubhouse, great chance to win,” he said. “I didn’t want to have to go to spring training and try to get to know everybody again. I just got done being traded and learned everyone’s name. I didn’t want to do it again. For a chance to be in this organization for two years, hopefully, it was a no-brainer for me.”
Because he had racked up 45 saves for the Twins over the previous two seasons, Kintzler did receive offers from a few other clubs in search of a closer. In D.C., he’ll continue to pitch the seventh inning, in front of Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle.
He chose to return to the lower-profile role, but in a better overall situation than the others could offer.
“It was tough,” he said. “But I felt like I had done it. I didn’t need it. I’ve already closed. I guess if I’d never closed before and I had a chance to do it, I might’ve done it. But for a chance, at my age, to play on a World Series contender, and still in a prominent role, that’s good enough for me. I got to be an All-Star as a closer. I don’t need to do it again. If it happens, it happens. But I didn’t need to chase it.”
Kintzler, like Madson and Doolittle, comes to camp knowing from the outset what’s expected of him. He’s not competing for a job, not trying to impress anyone who isn’t already impressed by him.
That allows the 33-year-old to approach this spring differently than he has previous springs with other teams.
“It means if you have a bad outing in spring training, you’re not stressed out about it,” he said. “I feel like for the last eight years in spring training, I was living and dying with every outing, just to try to get a job or a role. ... Here, hopefully you just leave the field healthy and just get your work in and get ready to leave. I definitely feel a lot less stress walking into the clubhouse.”