WASHINGTON — Before the Detroit Tigers cut reliever Francisco Rodriguez, they had already turned their closer duties over to Justin Wilson. K-Rod landed with the Nationals on a minor league deal. Now the Nats may be eyeing his one-time replacement as well.
According to reports from Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, Nationals’ interest in Wilson has increased since the Nats were first linked to the Tigers in June:
The Nationals are the most desperate for a lefty reliever, but they took a big bite out of their farm system in the off-season, though that won’t stop general manager Mike Rizzo from filling the need. They had a high-level scout following the Tigers for the past week.
To say that the devil is in the details might be an understatement, but the Nationals are at least taking the necessary steps to research filling their greatest need.
Wilson is having a bit of a breakout season, finishing 21 of 35 games with a 2.48 ERA, surrendering just 18 hits in 35 appearances. After Mark Melancon, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman all changed hands last trade deadline, Wilson might actually be the cream of the crop for this year’s relief corps.
Unfortunately, this type of report generates more questions than answers. Here are a few:
- How serious are the Nationals? The need is obvious, but Wilson isn’t exactly an elite closer with a long history of success. Before this season, he had only one save and had finished only 39 games.
- What will the Tigers ask for in return? The Tigers are currently playing hard to get, with general manager Al Avila refusing to say if the team will sell. Houston has a monstrous lead in the AL Central and the Tigers are several games out of the Wild Card, so let’s chalk this up to posturing. But even if the Tigers do sell, they have lots of suitors for bullpen help, with at least five teams currently linked to Wilson, including the Los Angeles Dodgers. If the Nats don’t net Wilson, they could be facing him in October.
- Do the Nationals have enough to offer? With no in-house option seizing control of the job, the Nats will be shopping for a team in win-now mode. Any team that lands Wilson will likely be handing over at least one top prospect and the Nats cleaned out the top of the farm system this offseason. Even if they have the talent, this one could hurt.
With deadlines likely to make for better deals, don’t look for the Tigers (or any other selling teams) to part with talented relievers before the deadline. It will be interesting to see how far Mike Rizzo and his team will go to secure an upgrade at the team’s biggest position of weakness so far.