In 2013, the Washington Nationals‘ bullpen was slightly less than consistent at times. Their new closer, Rafael Soriano, showed that he tends to be less motivated when not closing games, causing him to be pulled and seen as unreliable in non-save situations. Former closer Drew Storen showed somewhat of a Game 5 hangover which seemed to afflict most of the team on its way to a 86-76 record. Washington relievers finished with a 3.56 team ERA, or 17th in the majors down ten spots from 2012 when it ranked seventh with a 3.23 ERA. The lack of a left-handed presence in Washington’s bullpen was a contributing factor to their poor 2013, but injuries to key pieces such as Ryan Mattheus can also be blamed. So, in 2014, whether it’s Spring Training or Opening Day, is Washington planning a bullpen shakeup?
The lack of a lefty reliever has been addressed as the Nationals have already acquired Jerry Blevins from the Oakland Athletics, and there have also been rumors that Washington plans to give lefty starter prospect Sammy Solis a chance to make the team out of the bullpen which would give Washington three lefties out of the bullpen, including Blevins and Xavier Cedeno. The possibility of having three lefties makes for an uncomfortable situation for some bullpen incumbents from the right-handed side of things.
There have been rumors swirling that Storen could be dealt for a small amount of salary relief as well as many believing a change of scenery could seriously help him. However, these rumors surfaced prior to Grant Balfour signing with the Tampa Bay Rays, and now that Balfour is not coming to Washington the chances of that occurring have probably diminished. It is no secret that the pitching market has been incredibly slow to develop, mostly thanks to a certain Japanese import, and there are still some solid relievers with closing experience — such as Fernando Rodney — available so Storen could still be dealt whether it is in favor of a more experienced pitcher or merely for some insignificant salary relief.
There is no question 2013 was a bit of a shock to everyone involved with the Washington organization. Their strategy of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ after 2012 when it came to making bench and bullpen changes — especially when they ignored the lack of a left-handed presence — definitely came back to bite them. So, needless to say, do not be surprised if Washington still has a deal or two still up their proverbial sleeve.