As our offseason coverage kicks into high gear, we’re going to review each significant player on the Nationals roster. We continue today with Daniel Hudson, who was acquired on July 31 to help a struggling bullpen and wound up closing out the World Series.
PLAYER REVIEW: DANIEL HUDSON
Age on opening day 2020: 33
How acquired: Traded from Blue Jays for Kyle Johnston, July 2019
MLB service time: 10 years, 106 days
2019 salary: $1.5 million (Nats paid $483,871)
Contract status: Free agent
2019 stats (w/TOR and WSH): 9-3, 2.47 ERA, 8 SV, 73 IP, 56 H, 25 R, 20 ER, 8 HR, 27 BB, 71 SO, 4 HBP, 1.137 WHIP, 186 ERA+, 3.97 FIP, 0.9 fWAR, 2.0 bWAR
2019 postseason stats: 1-0, 3.72 ERA, 9 G, 4 SV, 9 2/3 IP, 11 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 HR, 4 BB, 10 SO, 1 HBP, 1.552 WHIP
Quotable: “That was so awesome, man. That’s what you play for. That’s what you work so hard for throughout your life, throughout your career. To be in that moment, to be on the mound with everybody looking at you when you get the last out in Game 7 of the World Series ... man, I’ll never forget that moment.” - Hudson
2019 analysis: Nationals fans could be forgiven if they didn’t know much about Hudson prior to his July 31 acquisition. Though he’d enjoyed a solid career to that point, most of it was under the radar. And there were bigger names on the reliever trade market this summer. Hudson, though, was putting together a solid season as a setup man and occasional closer in Toronto, with a real knack for escaping jams (he stranded 22 of 23 inherited runners for the Blue Jays).
The Nats acquired him (along with Hunter Strickland and Roenis Elías) to bring stability to the majors’ worst bullpen. They couldn’t have imagined he’d end up having such a profound impact. Initially a setup man for Sean Doolittle, Hudson proved he could be lights-out in a pennant race. He allowed only two runs in his first 14 outings for the Nationals.
Then Doolittle landed on the injured list in late August and Hudson was thrust into the closer’s role out of necessity. He admitted it’s not his favorite job, but he was more than up to the task, going 5-for-5 in September save situations.
When the playoffs began, Hudson remained in the closer’s role. He recorded the final three outs of the wild card game, the final four outs of the National League Championship Series and of course the final three outs of the World Series. He was a perfect 4-for-4 in postseason save situations. And aside from one shaky performance in garbage time of Game 5 of the Fall Classic, he was spectacular in October, allowing only one run in eight other appearances.
2020 outlook: The Nationals knew they were getting a rental in Hudson, who is now a free agent. They should give serious consideration to re-signing him, though they’ll also need to be realistic about what they’d be getting.
As great as he was this season, Hudson had never been that good previously in his career. Only once in five prior years as a reliever did he post an ERA under 4.11, and he had never owned a WHIP better than 1.200. He found the right combination this season, though, and sure looked like a guy capable of sustaining success.
The Nationals’ greater concern with Hudson may be his health. He’s a two-time Tommy John surgery recipient, and though he’s been awfully durable since returning from the second procedure he’s now got a lot of miles on that reconstructed elbow. Combine his postseason outings with his regular season outings and he totaled 78 appearances and 82 2/3 innings pitched this year. That’s a heavy workload, and that should raise at least some cause for concern from any team that signs him.
Still, there’s no questioning Hudson’s importance to the Nationals’ title run. He wasn’t just an effective reliever, he was a versatile reliever who was willing to do whatever was asked of him. The Hudson-Doolittle pairing turned out wonderful for three months. It’s awfully tempting to want to bring it back for another year.