Nats ink swingman Vance Worley to minor league deal

The Nationals on Saturday announced the signing of veteran right-hander Vance Worley to a minor league deal with an invitation to major league spring training, snatching a player the Orioles hoped would return to their bullpen after they cut ties with him last month.

Worley, 29, is capable of filling multiple roles on a pitching staff and could inherit the swingman role vacated when the Nats chose not to bring back righty Yusmeiro Petit. According to Chris Cotillo of SB Nation, the pact includes a $1 million major league salary and up to $1.65 million in incentives.

The Orioles non-tendered Worley in December after he went 2-2 with a 3.53 ERA and one save in 35 games last season, including four starts. He was more effective as a reliever, posting a 3.20 ERA in 31 outings. But as a starter, he held opponents to a .238/.323/.375 slash line.

Worley-Throws-White-Sidebar.jpgWorley’s value comes from his versatility, and his ability to start, pitch an inning or go multiple frames would appear to fill a need in the Nationals bullpen. His signing could push right-hander A.J. Cole out of contention for a long relief/swingman role.

In 139 major league games with the Phillies, Twins, Pirates and Orioles - 85 of them starts - Worley is 33-30 with a 3.75 ERA. He keeps the ball in the ballpark - 0.9 homers per nine innings over his career - and has averaged 2.9 walks per nine innings. But he’s prone to allowing baserunners, with a career 1.389 WHIP.

As recently as 2014, he was primarily a starting pitcher, going 8-4 with a 2.85 ERA in 18 games (17 starts) with the Pirates. But in 54 career games out of the ‘pen, Worley has worked to a 3.09 ERA.

Though the Orioles non-tendered him, they were hopeful of bringing Worley back at a lesser salary than the $3.3 million he was projected to earn via arbitration by MLBTradeRumors.com. He earned $2.6 million last season after being claimed off waivers from the Pirates in October 2015.

On Saturday in Baltimore, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette told reporters that the club had made Worley a contract offer, likely a minor league deal because the 40-man roster was full. Worley instead chose to join the Nationals and compete for a spot in their bullpen.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo wants to improve the depth of his bullpen, which could take a hit if the club goes in-house to find a closer. Either of two right-handers - Blake Treinen or Shawn Kelley - could be in line for saves after the Nats failed to land a closer via free agency of trade. But moving one or both of them into the ninth inning would rob the Nats of reliable setup men.

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