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Nationals: Where Does the Bullpen Go From Here?

Sara Kline, Editor-In-Chief

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New manager. Check. New coaches. Check. New players. The search has just begun. Over the last week, the Nationals have gotten to work, hiring the experienced Dusty Baker to manage. They have also hired former Ranger Pitching coach, Mike Maddux and 1st base coach Davey Lopes. Now with most of the coaching positions filled, it is time to fill the holes on the field.

The Nats did not extend a qualifying offer to pitcher Matt Thornton and did not pick up an option pitcher Casey Janssen, leaving spots to be filled in the bullpen. During this off-season, General Manager, Mike Rizzo’s first priority should be assessing the needs of the bullpen, which had a 3.44 earned run average (ERA) last season.  There have been reports that the Nats have their eye on a reliever, Darren O’Day,

Last season, the 33 year old had 1.52 ERA with 82 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings pitched.  Many teams have shown interest in O’Day, and he is considered one of the best free agents on the market. There are predictions that he will sign at least a 3-year, 25 million dollar contract. If the Nats do sign him, he will be an important part in rebuilding the bullpen.

The Nats do have enough pitchers to be able to mostly rebuild within. With the list of bullpen injuries to be long, Craig Stammen was out for most of the year, along with Aaron Barrett and David Carpenter.  With these three healthy, the bullpen has filled some of the issues that faced the Nats in the 2015 season.

Another issue in the bullpen is what to do with Jonathan Papelbon. When the Nats traded for him during the season, it was controversial. He took the role of the closer, moving Drew Storen to be the set up man. With his new role, Storen was not as sharp. He gave up hits, runs and eventually his ERA rose to 3.44.  As of right now, there are reports that the Nats are going to keep both Papelbon and Storen, which can be seen as risky considering that Storen did not pitch well in his new role.

Papelbon was also suspended at the end of the year for choking Bryce Harper in the dugout. Harper did not run out a fly ball, and when he got back into the dugout, words between him and Papelbon were exchanged, and Papelbon went after Harper. After this incident, many fans are protesting for the Nats to release Papelbon, and forfeit his 11 million contract for 2016. If Papelbon were traded, which is unlikely, the Nats would not get much in return. Even Harper himself said that they have made amends, and Harper wants him to return.

 

Within the organization, the Nats have many young arms that were in the bullpen last year. Many of them will be in the bullpen next season, and with the right development, they can easily help make the bullpen a success. Rizzo has been known to make some unexpected, and mostly good, signings in the off-season, and getting a bullpen guy with experience should be on the top of his list.

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Nationals: Where Does the Bullpen Go From Here?