The Washington Nationals‘ bullpen has been the equivalent of a massive dumpster fire this season, as the team’s bullpen entered Sunday with a 5.31 ERA, the worst in the MLB. However, that may change shortly, as the team acquired veteran relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for reliever Blake Treinen and prospects Sheldon Neuse and Jesus Luzardo.
#Athletics trade Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to Washington for RHP Blake Treinen, INF Sheldon Neuse and LHP Jesus Luzardo
— Oakland A's (@Athletics) July 16, 2017
Both Doolittle and Madson have experience as closers, which the Nationals have an absolute need. Doolittle was the Athletics’ closer for multiple seasons and Ryan Madson was a closer with the Philadelphia Phillies from 2009 to 2011. The Nationals began the season with a revolving door at the closer role, with Blake Treinen, Koda Glover, and Shawn Kelley getting consideration for the full-time role. However, that plan quickly busted, as all three pitchers have had disastrous seasons to date, including Kelley and Glover suffering injuries. Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker has said that both Doolittle and Madson will alternate closing duties.
Doolittle, 30, has been with the Athletics organization since he was drafted as a first baseman out of the University of Virginia in 2007 in the 1st round. Doolittle became a pitcher after the 2010 season, which he missed due to injury. In his career, Doolittle has pitched to a 3.09 ERA in 254 career appearances, sporting 10.7 K/9 and a 1.7 BB/9 across 253 innings. His career FIP sits at 2.44 and his ERA+ is a glamorous 127. However, in recent years, Doolittle has been plagued by the injury bug, only pitching 74 innings since the beginning of 2015. In 2017, Doolittle’s ERA is a healthy 3.38, with 31 strikeouts across 21.1 innings pitched. His FIP is sitting pretty at 2.35 and his WHIP is a astoundingly sparkling 0.65.
Madson, 36, will be the other piece going to Washington. Madson made his debut in 2003 with the Phillies in 2003 and stayed with the team until 2011. From 2012 to 2014, Madson “retired” due to Tommy John surgery after being unable to secure any deals with teams. However, Madson returned with the Kansas City Royals in 2015, pitching to a 2.13 ERA and helped lead the Royals to their first World Series title since 1985. In 2017, Madson continues his strong form that he re-found in Kansas City, as he sports a 2.06 ERA in 40 appearances, with 39 strikeouts and 6 walks across 39.1 innings. His FIP stands at 2.43, which hints to some regression, but none that should be alarming to Mike Rizzo and the Nationals.
Contract-wise, both Doolittle and Madson are in the middle of multi-year deals that run out after the 2018 season. Doolittle signed a 5 year, $10.5 million deal in 2013 that includes team options for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, with the 2020 option becoming mutual if Doolittle finishes 100 games between 2018 and 2019. Madson signed a 3 year, $22 million deal prior to the 2016 season, a rather risky move by Oakland. Madson is owed ~$7.7 million this season and $7.67 million in 2018.
The only major league player going to Oakland in this deal, Blake Treinen, was one of the aforementioned pitchers to be a part of the “revolving door” at closer in Washington prior to this season. Drafted by the Athletics in 2011, Treinen will return to the “Coliseum” with a tainted 2017 season, as his 5.73 ERA in 37 appearances will lead to him looking for a fresh restart for the second half. Luckily for him, his FIP suggests that a rebound is imminent, as it sits at 3.75, which is respectable. Treinen will make $564,000 in 2017 and is arbitration-eligible for the 2018 season.
The two minor leaguers going to Oakland, Neuse and Luzardo, were both drafted by the Nationals in the 2016 Draft, with Neuse being taken in the 2nd round and Luzardo being taken in the 3rd round. Neuse, 22, has played in 113 career minor league games, including 77 with Single-A affiliate of the Nationals, the Hagerstown Suns. In 2017, Neuse has hit .291/.349/.469, with 9 home runs and 51 runs batted in. The infielder becomes Oakland’s #11 prospect, per MLB.com, and has an ETA of 2019.
Luzardo, a left-handed pitcher, saw his draft stock fall after undergoing Tommy John surgery prior to the draft. However, scouts are encouraged by his return, and it has drawn comparisons to Nationals’ southpaw Gio Gonzalez. At 19, Luzardo is young and has loads of time to fully mature and develop, and in 3 starts for the Gulf Coast League Nationals has pitched to a 1.32 ERA across 13.2 innings, striking out 15 and allowing just two runs. He has yet to allow a walk in his minor league career. Luzardo will slot in as Oakland’s #15 prospect, per MLB.com, and has an ETA of 2020.