That’s what he told his agent at the beginning of the free agent process. Talk to the Nationals, stay in touch, see if the years and money line up. But beyond that, and the general desire to land with any team, Hudson was pulled toward Washington by the very recent past. He knew his place in franchise history: as the pitcher who finished the World Series, the one on the mound when the Nationals beat the Houston Astros, in seven games, to win their first title. He kept seeing that highlight on MLB Network. He imagined it playing in a museum one day, with Hudson chucking his glove at the dugout and jumping into catcher Yan Gomes’s arms.
It’s a memory he and this city will never forget. And it made him want to come back and chase some more.
“Obviously re-creating what we had is going to be tough,” Hudson said on a conference call Tuesday. “But I feel like I want to try to be a part of that.”
A winding career led him to the middle of the Nationals’ 2019 title run. He was once a solid starter, then had back-to-back Tommy John surgeries, then was sitting at home at this time last year, waiting for a call, wondering if he would get a chance. He latched on with the Los Angeles Angels, was cut before the season and signed with the Toronto Blue Jays just before Opening Day. He excelled there, the Nationals acquired him at the trade deadline, and he became one of two relievers Washington leaned on through October.
Hudson pushed the Nationals into the playoffs by saving both games of a doubleheader Sept. 24. He notched four saves in the playoffs. He finished it in Game 7 of the World Series, striking out Michael Brantley to oust the Astros, and he hit the market as a desired free agent. The Nationals had interest from the start but went ahead and signed right-handed reliever Will Harris to a three-year, $24 million deal Jan. 3. Hudson figured that ended his time in Washington. But the Nationals reached out the next day, they negotiated over the weekend, and the sides soon agreed to a two-year, $11 million contract with the chance to earn another $1 million in performance incentives.
Both moves make the bullpen a potential strength for the Nationals. Hudson and Harris join Sean Doolittle in the back end, and Tanner Rainey, Wander Suero, Hunter Strickland and Roenis Elías should also be in the mix. Hudson was role-less last season — sometimes closing, sometimes pitching the eighth, sometimes entering to defuse jams — and he expects that again. He, Harris and Doolittle give Manager Dave Martinez a chance to get creative in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. The other options, namely Rainey and Suero, could take a step forward with reduced workloads.
The bullpen was a historic weakness for the Nationals in 2019, something they looked to avoid at all costs. But now, with Hudson back in the mix, the group could rightly complement a rotation that features Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Aníbal Sánchez. Hudson couldn’t pass up a chance to be a part of that. He has a good idea of how rare and fleeting this is.
“It’s definitely cool to think about,” Hudson said of his place in such big moments. “Obviously it could have been anybody in those situations."