One thing that the Washington Nationals are starting to be known for is depth. Their top three relievers all have closing experience, and the argument could be made that they never really needed to sign Rafael Soriano last offseason. With young, controllable relievers in Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, it did not seem to be a move that made sense.
Soriano did end up saving 43 games for Washington, though his ERA was slightly high for a closer. With Storen’s up-and-down year, the move did end up working out for the Nationals as they had the closer’s role locked up all season and especially because of how sporadic the rest of the bullpen was. The Nats lacked left-handers they could count on and needed to make changes on the fly almost daily.
Washington almost certainly will address their left-handed pitching issues this winter with many veteran lefties on the open market, and also because the non-move from last winter blew up in their faces. Also, with an open rotation spot, Washington could also pursue a starting pitcher on the trade market, with perhaps Clippard or Storen being the centerpiece of a potential deal.
With that in mind, Washington could pursue another veteran closer this offseason perhaps to light a fire under Soriano, or simply as insurance. Soriano has consistently lost fastball velocity every season and will be 34 on opening day.
Grant Balfour would be a perfect fit for both Washington’s bullpen and their clubhouse. Balfour was a huge hit with the Oakland Athletics and their fans with his “Balfour rage”. In his three seasons with the A’s, Balfour saved 64 games, and his save totals have increased in each of the past three seasons. Sure, he’s 35, but Balfour could be the personality Washington needs, especially with new manager Matt Williams.
If Washington is going to trade a reliever, chances are Mike Rizzo will try and bring in another arm to replace the arm he trades. With that in mind, Balfour could be a solid veteran addition to a young bullpen and a young team.