The Washington Nationals are not wasting time piecing together a bullpen for 2019, as they acquired reliever Kyle Barraclough from the Miami Marlins on Wednesday, a little more than a week after their 2018 season ended.
Barraclough has a 3.21 ERA across four major league seasons and promises to give the Nationals an experienced late-inning option. He is arbitration eligible this offseason, after making $1.1 million with the Marlins in 2018, and will not be a free agent until 2022. The Nationals sent international slot money to the Marlins in exchange for the 28-year-old right-hander.
The Nationals bullpen was in flux for much of this past season, largely due to injuries suffered by all-star closer Sean Doolittle and setup man Kelvin Herrera, who was acquired from the Kansas City Royals in July and missed the last month after tearing the Lisfranc ligament in his left foot. They also did not get Koda Glover until early August due to a shoulder injury, parted with Shawn Kelley and Brandon Kintzler at the trade deadline, and were without Ryan Madson for a stretch, due to lingering back pain, before they dealt him to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
That made the bullpen a clear priority heading into this offseason, and the Nationals began addressing it with Barraclough. He was inconsistent as a closer for the Marlins this past season, but the Nationals are expected to pick up Doolittle’s $6 million club option and will not be auditioning for a new closer anytime soon. Barraclough more than likely slots somewhere between the sixth and eighth inning for the Nationals, who will also bring back Glover in a similar role. Barraclough had a great start to 2018 with the Marlins, giving up just four earned runs in his first 37 appearances (good for a 0.99 ERA) and holding opponents to a .085 batting average. He was named the National League reliever of the month in June after he gave up just one hit to 38 batters across 12 appearances, and went a perfect seven-for-seven in save opportunities. He reeled off a 20⅔-inning scoreless streak from May 11 to June 30. He then finished the season with a 4.20 ERA in 55⅔ innings pitched.
As the Nationals assess their next steps, with free agency looming at the start of November, they have a handful of options to consider from this past season’s team. It seems that Doolittle, Glover, lefty Matt Grace and now Barraclough are the only surefire pieces for the bullpen’s immediate future. Wander Suero is under team control for the foreseeable future and was solid as a middle-inning option down the stretch. The organization can weigh the value of Greg Holland as an experienced, late-inning arm, as Holland revived a terrible season with great numbers for the Nationals in August and September. Then there is Justin Miller, who was jobless before the 2018 season, ended up with seven wins, a 3.61 ERA and even two saves across 52⅓ innings, and could come back at a cheap price.
The Nationals will need to address pressing needs at second base, catcher and in the starting rotation in the coming months. And the bullpen, another spot that needs to be looked at with a critical eye this winter, is now ahead of schedule with the addition of Barraclough.
Read more Nationals: