The Washington Nationals have had a fiery start to the 2017 season. They have posted the best record in the National League so far through 40 games at 25-15 with one of the most complete lineups and starting pitching rotation in baseball. They seem all but a lock to win the National League East division and make the playoffs, which has been one of the worst divisions in baseball other than the Nationals. Although, there is still one burning issue for this club, the bullpen. The Nationals just can’t seem to find anyone on their current roster who can hold a lead and finish out games. So far this season, they have tried Blake Treinen, Shawn Kelley, Koda Glover and Matt Albers in the ninth inning. So far not so good as the Nationals still keep asking themselves if they can trust any of these guys to get the job done.
This unit has a combined earned run average of 5.32, which is one of the highest in the whole league. Multiple blown saves and late-inning home runs have been given up. The team’s top two choices, Treinen and Kelley, both have over a 7.00 ERA. This issue has cost the team a couple of heartbreaking losses late in games and really hurt their trust in the back end of their bullpen. This is not the first time this has been a problem for this squad though. During the 2016 season, they had Jonathan Papelbon on the roster to be the closer, who throughout his career had been great for the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies. That experiment blew up in their face when Papelbon was designated for assignment and ultimately released in August of last season. They then acquired Mark Melancon from the Pittsburgh Pirates to help replace Papelbon at closer, then to watch Melancon bolt for the San Francisco Giants in free agency after the 2016 season. So again, the Nationals still have the same problem.
A solution to this problem could be to make a move on trading for a closer. There have been rumors that the Nationals are interested in Chicago White Sox closer David Robertson, Tampa Bay Rays closer Alex Colome and Kansas City Royals closer Kelvin Herrera. Any of these guys would instantly provide a huge upgrade to a struggling unit. There is a possibility that some of the other guys the team has tried at closer may regain their confidence pitching in earlier relief innings if the team was to make a move as well. It seems though as if the Nationals first choice would be David Robertson. Robertson has had a good year so far, he’s 2-1 with a 3.21 ERA with five saves in 13 appearances on a rebuilding team in Chicago. He is also under contract already through the 2018 season, which makes him a very appealing choice.
Now the only question is will general manager Mike Rizzo pull the trigger and make a move? The Nationals already had given up a lot of their best prospects this past off-season in a trade with the White Sox for center fielder Adam Eaton. It would be a challenge to give up a lot of young talent to bring in Robertson, but this may be a move that the team cannot pass up. The two sides are familiar with one another, which could help strike a deal to bring Robertson to the nation’s capital. Nationals fans are begging for a solution to be found for this problem. It could make or break their entire season.
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