Still looking for upgrades to their bullpen and veteran arms to compete for rotation spots in spring training, the Nationals accomplished both goals on Monday, signing former Phillies reliever Tyler Walker to a major-league deal and ex-Braves starter Chuck James to a minor-league deal, according to a team source. The team has also signed outfielder Chris Duncan.
Walker had a 3.06 ERA in 32 appearances for the Phillies last season after a pair of seasons with the Giants. He's got good walk numbers over his career, though he can give up strings of hits and has never put together two solid seasons in a row.
Assuming Walker makes the team, the Nats' bullpen now likely looks like this: Matt Capps, Brian Bruney, Sean Burnett, Walker, Jason Bergmann, Tyler Clippard and possibly Drew Storen. None of those players were on the Nationals' Opening Day roster in 2009, and only Bergmann and Clippard were in the organization.
James missed all of 2009 with left shoulder surgery and pitched just seven games in 2008, so there's no illusions here he is going to be a solution in the rotation. But he made 30 starts in 2007, going 11-10 with a 4.24 ERA, and was 11.4 in 2006.
He's a light-tossing pitcher who relies on not giving up walks, much like a John Lannan or Craig Stammen, and his ability to make the team will depend on his health and performance in spring training, since he's probably a long shot.
Duncan is another low-risk pickup that will only boost the team if he returns to a level he hasn't been at in several years. He hit 43 combined homers in 2006-07, but had just 11 in 2008-09.