Are Nats only in market for lefty reliever or perhaps more?

The Nationals are in the market for bullpen help this winter. Just like every winter. Guess you have to admire their consistency, right?

The good news is, they’re in less of a bind this winter than they’ve usually been in the past. With Daniel Hudson, Will Harris, Tanner Rainey and Kyle Finnegan all returning, they’ve got a solid core group of right-handers already on the staff.

What they don’t have is a left-hander, now that Sean Doolittle is a free agent. So that’s probably priority No. 1 for Mike Rizzo as he scours the market in the coming weeks. There are several strong candidates, but there’s also no shortage of quality righties if the Nats general manager wants to try to add to the stable he already has locked in for 2021.

baseballs-generic-art-nats.jpgHere’s a rundown of just part of the long list of free agent relievers ...

LIAM HENDRICKS
Opening day 2021 age: 32
2020 stats: 3-1, 1.78 ERA, 24 G, 14 SV, 25 1/3 IP, 3 BB, 37 SO, 0.671 WHIP, 1.14 FIP, 1.4 bWAR
Projected contract: 3 years, $36 million
Nats’ likely interest level: Low to moderate. The best reliever on the market this winter, and he’s coming off an absolutely dominant (if abbreviated) season in Oakland. Any good team in need of late-inning help should be interested in the Australian right-hander, but is he really what the Nationals need? That’s debatable. They’ve got Hudson, Rainey, Harris and Finnegan returning from the right side. What they don’t have at the moment is a reliable lefty. Still, Mike Rizzo has never been shy about strengthening a position of strength. If he believes Hendricks would make them better, he has shown he’s willing to make that kind of move.

BRAD HAND
Opening day 2021 age: 31
2020 stats: 2-1, 2.05 ERA, 23 G, 16 SV, 22 IP, 4 BB, 29 SO, 0.773 WHIP, 1.37 FIP, 0.7 bWAR
Projected contract: 2 years, $14 million
Nats’ likely interest level: Moderate to high. Heads were scratched throughout baseball when Cleveland placed Hand on waivers at the end of the season rather than pick up his $10 million option. Then even more heads were scratched when no other club claimed him. Wouldn’t somebody want one of the most effective left-handed relievers in the sport? Apparently not at that price. So now Hand is a free agent, and it’s anybody’s guess what his eventual contract will be. You’d think someone would give him two years, though the annual salary will be less than $10 million. And you’d think the Nationals would be very, very interested in acquiring a lefty of his caliber.

ALEX COLOMÉ
Opening day 2021 age: 32
2020 stats: 2-0, 0.81 ERA, 21 G, 12 SV, 22 1/3 IP, 8 BB, 16 SO, 0.940 WHIP, 2.97 FIP, 1.0 bWAR
Projected contract: 2 years, $12 million
Nats’ likely interest level: Low to moderate. The former White Sox closer had outstanding numbers this season, though he doesn’t miss as many bats as typical closers, and that could scare teams off a bit. Like Hendricks, he’s a proven late-inning arm, and any team would benefit from adding him. But as a righty, he’s probably lower on the Nationals’ list than others.

TONY WATSON
Opening day 2021 age: 35
2020 stats: 1-0, 2.50 ERA, 21 G, 2 SV, 18 IP, 3 BB, 15 SO, 0.889 WHIP, 4.36 FIP, 0.1 bWAR
Projected contract: 2 years, $6 million
Nats’ likely interest level: Moderate to high. How come this guy never gets mentioned among the best lefties in the majors? Talk about a model of consistency: He averages 70 appearances per (162-game) season, he’s posted an ERA higher than 3.38 only once since 2012, a WHIP over 1.125 only twice since then. He’s equally effective against righties and lefties, which makes him even more valuable with the three-batter-minimum rule. Unless they’re scared off by his age, the Nationals should be high on Watson.

JUSTIN WILSON
Opening day 2021 age: 33
2020 stats: 2-1, 3.66 ERA, 23 G, 0 SV, 19 2/3 IP, 9 BB, 23 SO, 1.373 WHIP, 3.04 FIP, 0.2 bWAR
Projected contract: 2 years, $5 million
Nats’ likely interest level: Moderate to high. Wilson isn’t quite as consistent as Watson, but he’s got a solid track record over a nine-year career (3.27 ERA, 1.279 WHIP, 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings). He also pitched for the Cubs in 2017-18, so he overlapped with Davey Martinez for a bit. Historically, he’s been very effective against right-handed hitters, but they did bat a hefty .306 off him this year.

AARON LOUP
Opening day 2021 age: 33
2020 stats: 3-2, 2.52 ERA, 24 G, 0 SV, 25 IP, 4 BB, 22 SO, 0.840 WHIP, 3.83 FIP, 0.5 bWAR
Projected contract: 1 year, $1 million
Nats’ likely interest level: Low to moderate. Loup is an experienced lefty with decent career numbers (3.38 ERA, 1.236 WHIP, 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings). He performed well for the Rays in the postseason. He won’t cost much, perhaps even available on a minor-league deal. Certainly not at the top of the Nats’ wish list, but he’s a viable fallback option.

SHANE GREENE
Opening day 2021 age: 32
2020 stats: 1-0, 2.60 ERA, 28 G, 0 SV, 27 2/3 IP, 9 BB, 21 SO, 1.120 WHIP, 3.81 FIP, 1.0 bWAR
Projected contract: 2 years, $12 million
Nats’ likely interest level: Moderate. Rizzo was really high on Greene in 2019 and tried to acquire him at the July 31 trade deadline, only to be scared off by the Tigers’ high asking price. The Braves wound up getting him. (The Nats wound up with Hudson, which worked out just fine.) He’s solid all around, but like some of the aforementioned others, as a righty he’s probably less of a priority for the Nationals this time around.

KIRBY YATES
Opening day 2021 age: 32
2020 stats: 0-1, 12.46 ERA, 6 G, 2 SV, 4 1/3 IP, 4 BB, 8 SO, 2.538 WHIP, 5.27 FIP, -0.3 bWAR
Projected contract: 1 year, $5 million
Nats’ likely interest level: Low to moderate. Yates barely pitched this year for the Padres due to bone chips in his elbow that required season-ending surgery. But he was one of the best closers in the league in 2019, with a 1.19 ERA, 41 saves, 0.890 WHIP and a whopping 101 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings. If he’s healthy, he could be a great buy-low acquisition for some team. He’s right-handed, so he’s not a perfect fit for the Nationals. But if they can get him cheap, who knows?

TREVOR MAY
Opening day 2021 age: 31
2020 stats: 1-0, 3.86 ERA, 24 G, 2 SV, 23 1/3 IP, 7 BB, 38 SO, 1.157 WHIP, 3.62 FIP, 0.1 bWAR
Projected contract: 2 years, $14 million
Nats’ likely interest level: Low to moderate. The right-hander has one of the better arms among the available relievers, with a career 10.5 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate in six seasons with the Twins. Put him on the list, but you wouldn’t think the Nationals would get into a bidding war over him, given the plethora of alternatives.

THE EX-NATS: TREVOR ROSENTHAL, MARK MELANCON, BLAKE TREINEN, SEAN DOOLITTLE, GREG HOLLAND, TYLER CLIPPARD, BRANDON KINTZLER
Holy cow, there’s a lot of former Nationals late-inning relievers on the free-agent market this winter. The odds of a reunion with any of them are probably minimal - maybe Doolittle, if they think they saw enough improvement in September to take a shot at him - but it’s still pretty striking to see so many of these familiar names out there, several of them having had real success since leaving D.C.

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