On Sunday, the Washington Nationals made one of what should be many moves to address their worrisome bullpen. The team traded relief pitcher Blake Treinen and prospects Sheldon Neuse and left-handed pitcher Jesus Luzardo. FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal first reported word of the Nationals interest last night and the agreed trade today.
Both relief pitchers represent major upgrades for Washington's bullpen. For a team that needed help everywhere, especially in the late innings, the Nationals add a reliable set-up man for the seventh or eighth inning and a productive lefty reliever in Doolittle.
Madson's numbers stand out the most this season with the Athletics. Across 39 1/3 innings pitched in 2017, the 36-year-old righty posted a 2.06 ERA, 2.43 FIP and an outstanding 39/6 K/BB ratio. Madson's command has stood out throughout the season, but more importantly he does a good job stranding runners on base and keeping the ball in the yard. Madson's 79.5 percent left on base rate and 0.46 HR/9 will help a bullpen in Washington that needed stability.
Doolittle, who has battled injuries over the past several seasons, has pitched extremely well for the A's in 2017. Across 21 1/3 innings pitched, the 30-year-old southpaw posted a 2.34 FIP, 2.44 xFIP and a Kenley Jansen-esque 15.5 K/BB ratio. He will immediately upgrade Washington's situation when facing left-handed hitters in the late innings, especially given Doolittle hasn't allowed a hit to any of the 24 left-handed hitters he faced. He also limited opposing hitters this season to a .156 batting average and struck out nearly 40 percent of the batters he faced.
No financial details have been reported, so as of now it appears the Nationals will take on all of Madson and Doolittle's contract from the Athletics.
For the Athletics, the move opens up the gates for the front office to sell off multiple players and make them one of the most aggressive sellers at the trade deadline.
The addition of the 29-year-old Treinen will add some reliable innings out of the pen in the second half. While he owns a 5.73 ERA and 3.11 BB/9, though there is reason to believe he will turn things around. But over the last month, Treinen posted a 2.17 FIP and 11/1 K/BB ratio and his 4.05 ERA is only inflated by one appearance when he allowed three runs in one inning on June 29. He will be under contract through the 2020 season.
Oakland's focus from this return is the prospects. Luzardo is the biggest potential piece in the deal. Luzaro entered 2016 as a potential first-round draft pick thanks to a fastball that jumped into mid-90s and with his addition repertoire, gave him the profile of a potential mid-rotation starter. But just a few months into 2016, he suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament and underwent Tommy John Surgery.
Luzardo fell into the third round as a result, where the Nationals took a chance on him and signed him for $1.4 million, nearly $800K above slot. The organization played things cautiously and Luzardo just returned in June of this year in Rookie ball.
Across his first three starts, Luzardo has shown flashes of the stuff that gave him the first-round pick profile before TJS. Across 13 2/3 innings pitched, the 19-year-old southpaw has allowed just one home run and two earned runs on the year. Of the 54 batters Luzardo faced, he struck out 15 of them and hasn't allowed a single walk.
He rated as the ninth-best prospect in Washington's system and would have been higher if healthy. His fastball drew a 55-grade, while his curveball drew a future 55-grade and his changeup earned a future 60-grade. With three above-average pitches and the command shown in a small sample this year, Luzardo still offers the potential to one day be a mid-rotation starter if he stays healthy and the fastball velocity returns.
Neuse also came out of the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft. Selected in the second round out of University of Oklahoma, the shortstop turned third baseman's biggest tool is his 60-level throwing arm. While he didn't have the speed or athleticism to play shortstop, Neuse's athleticism and arm play extremely well at the hot corner and should make him a strong defender at third base in a potential big-league career.
After a poor debut in Low-A ball in 2016, the Nationals gave the 22-year-old an opportunity to try and prove himself in High-A this season. So far, he has demonstrated a turnaround with a .291/.349/.469 slash line, .368 wOBA, 133 wRC+ and .818 OPS. Given his performance at the level, the Athletics could opt to promote Neuse to Double-A when he arrives.
Despite a 40-grade speed, he has swiped 12 bases this year on 17 attempts. With his development on the base paths paired with 55-grade game power and an above-average hit tool, Neuse shows the tools and now is demonstrating the numbers of a future major-league starter at the hot corner. Now it will be about seeing how he handles the promotion to higher competition whenever that comes.