WASHINGTON — The Washington Nationals made the deal to beat before the MLB trade deadline, acquiring a pair of closers-in-waiting for a solid reliever and two distant prospects.
It’s a move that addressed the team’s biggest need and provided insurance against investing in the wrong reliever (a la Jonathan Papelbon) down the stretch.
The best news for Nationals fans is that the front office might not be ready to sit pretty with the roster as is. In fact, more bullpen help could be on the way with two weeks to go before the non-waiver trade deadline:
With that in mind, here are five available relievers worth knowing:
- Zach Britton: Likely the most coveted closer on the market this year, Britton is a stud reliever with a 1.93 ERA in 13 appearances this season. Believe it or not, the Baltimore Orioles closer is having his worst year since converting to closer, with arm injuries stealing his last two months. With that in the rear-view mirror, he should return to his dominant ways, and reuniting with catcher Matt Wieters wouldn’t be a bad thing. Unfortunately, he plays on a team owned by lawyer Peter Angelos, who just lost a court decision to the Nationals on MASN fees. If a deal gets done, it won’t be cheap.
- Justin Wilson: The Nats were rumored to be hot for Wilson before the deal to land Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson was completed. Wilson is enjoying his best season since 2013 after taking over closer duties for the Detroit Tigers, tallying 10 saves with a 2.29 ERA. If the Nats are desperate to add to the outfield, a package that includes slugger J.D. Martinez could also be arranged. But with a 10.5 game lead in the NL East, the team might just wait for the healthy return of Jayson Werth. Wilson, however, is still in play.
- Brad Hand: Dennis Lin of the San Diego Tribune says that 15 teams have contacted the Padres about procuring Hand’s services, and it’s no surprise why. The 27-year-old All-Star is enjoying his best season yet, with a 2.25 ERA in 43 games, and comes for the low price of $520,000. The Pads are in rebuild mode and will be moving him for a large return. If he doesn’t solve the Nats’ need at closer, however, it’s hard to imagine them getting into a bidding war.
- David Robertson: This is the Nats rumor that won’t die–after nearly acquiring Robertson in a package with Adam Eaton last winter, the Nats could still land the closer in a separate deal. Robertson is also enjoying his best season since 2013, twirling a 2.70 ERA in 31 games with 13 saves. At this point, all reports point to a reunion with the New York Yankees or a jump to the Boston Red Sox, but the Nats have shown interest in his services in the past.
- AJ Ramos: Each of the aforementioned options has better numbers this season than Ramos, but the Marlins closer leads the group in saves. If the Nats want an active closer, this is another option to consider, and one that the team was mulling before acquiring Doolittle and Madson. The problem is that Ramos has a career-high 4.08 ERA, and has tied a career high with four losses this season. If the Nats are legitimately still interested, they have to believe that the best is yet to come for the 2016 All-Star.