The Angels have agreed to sign former Nationals reliever Sean Burnett pending a physical, said Jim Munsey, Burnett’s agent, said. Burnett’s departure after three-plus seasons as a mainstay in the Nationals’ bullpen leaves them looking for one more left-handed reliever to plug into their bullpen.
Burnett posted a 2.38 ERA last year in 56 2/3 innings, able to handle one full inning late in the game and face both lefties and right-handers. He was well-liked and respected inside the Nationals clubhouse. He pitched the entire second half with a bone spur in his left elbow, which required relatively minor surgery following the postseason.
The Nationals are targeting free agent left-hander J.P. Howell, who pitched the last seven seasons with the Rays, to replace Burnett. Howell, 29, posted a 3.04 ERA in 50 2/3 innings last season. The Nationals believe his mid-80s, sweeping fastball makes him effective against right-handed batters, and they want a lefty who, like Burnett, can retire hitters from both sides of the plate.
The Nationals figure to compete with the Brewers, who are also looking for left-handed relief help.
Even with Zach Duke re-signed as a long reliever, the Nationals have not ruled out the possibility of brining back free agent Tom Gorzelanny, whom they non-tendered last week. Gorzelanny was a long reliever last year for the Nationals.
The Cardinals added to the run on left-handed relievers by signing Randy Choate to a three-year, $7.5 million contract, according to several reports. Choate is more of a lefty specialist, and the Nationals did not have interest in him.
The other remaining free agent left-handed relievers include Manny Parra, George Sherrill and Michael Gonzalez, who pitched well for the Nationals after signing as a minor league free agent in May.