Is there such thing as too many swing men?

Versatility has been the name of the Nationals’ roster building game ever since they started the organizational rebuilding process two summers ago. They value players who can play multiple positions.

Find jacks of all trades and have them fill a variety of roles.

That works pretty well for position players (infielders who can play all over and outfielders who can fill all three spots). But you might run into a master of none situation when it comes to pitching.

While the Nationals fared very well this season utilizing pitchers out of the bullpen in multiple ways, is there such a thing as too many swing men?

Get your mind out of the gutter. We’re talking baseball here.

The Nationals only had 10 pitchers this year make every single appearance as a starter: Patrick Corbin, Josiah Gray, Erick Fedde, Aníbal Sánchez, Joan Adon, Aaron Sanchez, Jackson Tetreault, Stephen Strasburg, Cade Cavalli and Tommy Romero. And Aaron Sanchez only made seven starts, Tetreault four, and Strasburg, Cavalli and Romero one apiece.

Out of the bullpen, only Tanner Rainey, Kyle Finnegan and Carl Edwards Jr. had defined roles as either a closer or setup man.

Every other pitcher used by manager Davey Martinez seemed to fill a different role based on need any given night. And to vary degrees of success.

Take Erasmo Ramirez, who the Nationals just re-signed to a one-year deal worth up to $2 million in incentives, as a successful example. This jack of all trades finished with a 2.92 ERA and 1.077 WHIP over 86 1/3 innings. He made two emergency starts against the Braves, covering three innings in each. He pitched three innings or more five times and allowed eight earned runs over those outings, six of which came in one of those starts against Atlanta.

He pitched two or more innings 19 times and had a 2.36 ERA over those outings. He pitched more than one inning 25 times and had a 2.01 ERA over those outings. He completed less than an inning only five times and allowed just three earned runs over those outings.

Over his 30 appearances when Ramirez recorded exactly three outs, he only surrendered 13 earned runs.

Then there are guys like Paolo Espino, who Martinez affectionately calls his Swiss Army knife. The 35-year-old right-hander made 42 appearances this season, 19 of which were starts. Over his 23 relief appearances, he pitched to a 2.12 ERA and 1.112 WHIP over 29 ⅔ innings. But as a starter, he posted a 5.81 ERA and 1.458 WHIP over 83 ⅔ innings.

Outside of the games he started, Espino went over one inning six times, topping out at three frames. He only gave up four earned runs over those appearances for a 2.63 ERA. He made 17 relief appearances complete one inning or less, giving up only three earned runs for a 1.69 ERA.

Espino seemed to have more success with a defined role as a reliever instead of bouncing back and forth from the rotation.

Guys like Andres Machado and Victor Arano had some chances at pitching multiple innings. The Nationals even wanted to stretch out young arms Jordan Weems and Mason Thompson to see if they could handle a swing man-type workload.

Cory Abbott and Evan Lee both appeared as starters and relievers, but will likely join Tetreault as rotation depth pieces.

New additions Trevor Williams, Thad Ward and A.J. Alexy have all pitched out of both roles. But Williams said during his introductory press conference last week that he was told he will be a part of the rotation, leaving Ward and Alexy as swing man options. Though Ward has been primarily a starter throughout his professional career and Alexy has a 12.66 ERA over five major league relief appearances.

The Nationals will certainly welcome versatility and the willingness to fill whatever role necessary. Anything to help the team win, right? They will also use the revolving door between them and the minor leagues with the young players who can still be optioned down.

But at what point are there too many cooks in the kitchen and more defined roles become necessary?

Nationals agree to terms with right-handed pitcher...
Candelario relishes opportunity to reunite with Ma...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to