NASHVILLE — If the Nationals make big splashes this offseason, they are not doing so now. Contenders are making big-money deals around them, but their approach has been more steady than head-turning. While the Nationals expressed interest in many players at many positions, they seemed determined to emerge from the Winter Meetings with, at least, a more experienced and proven middle relief corps. Wednesday, the Nationals agreed to terms with right-hander Yusmeiro Petit, the 31-year-old recently non-tendered by the San Francisco Giants, according to a person familiar with the situation.
The agreement is for a one-year deal worth $2.5 million with a club option for 2017, according to that person, and has a $500,000 buyout, meaning the Nationals guarantee Petit $3 million. Joel Sherman of the New York Post first reported the Nationals were closing in on a deal, and MLB Trade Rumors first reported specifics. Petit threw to a 3.67 ERA in 42 appearances in 2015 with a WHIP of 1.184 in 76 innings. He compiled a 3.93 strikeout-to-walk ratio, lowest of his four-year Giants tenure.
The Nationals know Petit well because he baffled them through six shutout innings in the now-infamous Game 2 of the 2014 National League Division Series, which the Nationals lost by a run in 18 innings. Petit is known for reliable command, and has the 11th-best walks-per-nine ratio of relievers over the last three seasons. Versatile in terms of his workload — able to start, serve in long relief, or work in short bursts — Petit likely slots into the middle-innings role vacated by non-tendered Craig Stammen.
Petit becomes the second experienced reliever to join the retooling Nationals bullpen. Lefty specialist Oliver Perez, a well-traveled 34-year-old, agreed to a one-year deal last week. Whatever the Nationals decide to do with controversial closer Jonathan Papelbon and beleaguered set-up man Drew Storen, the bridge to the back end of the bullpen seems likely to be built on affordable, less-heralded additions like these.
The Nationals have serious interest in right-hander Shawn Kelley, but there have been conflicting accounts on whether a deal has been completed. One person familiar with the situation said a deal is in place pending a physical, but another said nothing has been finalized. The 31-year-old was among the top 20 strikeout rates in baseball over the last few seasons.
— James Wagner contributed