April 19, 2021

Washington Nationals Winter Meetings: Escobar sent to Angels; bullpen makeover

The Washington Nationals have played it quiet this offseason so far, notable for the ones that have gotten (or will get) away. Jordan Zimmermann was the first to go, signing a below-market contract with the Detroit Tigers even before the winter meetings. Ian Desmond, Denard Span and others will follow.

But the past few days have brought rumors of new bullpen pieces, and finally — some hard news!

The Nats have added some pretty significant pieces to the bullpen renovation:

  • Signed Yusmeiro Petit (Giants) to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million with a club option for 2017.
  • Signed Shawn Kelley (Padres) to a reported 3-year, $15 million deal.

And the medium shoe to drop on Thursday:

  • Traded 3B Yunel Escobar to the Angels for RHP Trevor Gott and RHP Michael Brady.

Some profiles

Petit, 31, is a true “swing man” like of the olden days. He can start, he can long relieve, he can be trusted in a situational role. He was 1-1 with a 3.67 ERA and 1.184 WHIP (7.0 K, 1.8 BB/9) in 42 appearances (76.0 innings). He started once in 2015, but had 12 games started and 14 games finished in 2014, which speaks to how flexible the Giants saw him. The BIG caveat: His K/9 dropped precipitously between 14-15, falling from a career high of 10.2 in ’14.

Kelley, 32, is a high-K, late inning guy in every sense of the word. The past three seasons (two with NYY, the last with SDG) he’s had K-rates of 12.0, 11.7 and 11.0. His BB rates are a big inflated (3.9, 3.5, 2.6) but seem to be getting better and aren’t outrageous due to his high-Ks. Last year, he pitched to a 2.45 ERA and 1.091 WHIP, full-season lows for the big righty.

Gott, 23, was just a rookie last year, so he isn’t arbitration eligible until 2019 and not a free agent until 2022. He was 4-2 with a 3.02 ERA and 1.238 WHIP in 48 games (47 2/3 IP) with 5.1 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. He throws 96-97. His K numbers in the minors (9.5 career in 124 IP) show promise. He held righties to a .214/.262/.286 slash, though lefties went .275/.366/.350. The Angels thought enough of the then-22-year-old to pitch him mostly in the seventh and eighth innings.

Brady was a 28-year-old in double-A last year. He is organizational filler.

Some analysis

Petit and Kelley both bring valuable veteran arms to the pen, as GM Mike Rizzo goes about addressing one of the Nats’ biggest areas of concern from last season. Petit’s K numbers dropping are a concern about injury, but there haven’t been any discussions of that in the media.

Kelley’s contract, if the reports are to be believed, is an overpay based on the market, but he’s solid and flexible and puts up huge K numbers. That can’t be undersold in the back of the pen.

Gott is young, controllable and projectable. He throws hard, and has a good idea about what he’s doing with it. The Angels increased his load and duties every month he was on the roster. Rizzo essentially traded high on Escobar to get six years of a big arm in the pen. Escobar, while posting a gaudy average, did precious little else for the Nats. No power, no speed, terrible defense and often injured. Also, a money saver. Win-win-win.

Looking forward

The Nats still need to decide on what to do about Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen. Now, with Escobar out of the picture, Anthony Rendon goes back to third full-time, presumably with Trea Turner at short or second and Danny Espinosa at the other spot. Though with several second basemen still available (Daniel Murphy and Howie Kendrick notable) the Nats could make a play for one of those and relegate Espinosa to super-sub or Turner to AAA for a while.

Also, and I suppose not shockingly, the Nats have now been tied to Jason Heyward. He’s going to cost upwards of $200 million, but remember, Jayson Werth’s contract expires after 2017 and Ryan Zimmerman after 2018, just in time for Bryce Harper to become a free agent. The Nats’ pursuit of Heyward perpetuates the “win-now” atmosphere but does not cripple the team in re-signing Harper.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP


  1. The Lerners want to make money more than they want to win. Which is why they lowballed Black and brought in Dusty. No surprise they weren’t able to sign Heyward. It’s part of a pattern. i wonder if the word is out among MLB players – the Lerners will low ball you at every opportunity.

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