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Daniel Hudson represents a key offseason question for Nationals

Daniel Hudson represents a key offseason question for Nationals

An intact unit from a championship team is typically positive. Bring back the winners. Try it again. Why not?

The Nationals’ bullpen, such as it was by the end of the season, will again be populated by pieces from the league’s worst ensemble in 2019. Closer Sean Doolittle is back -- that’s good. Washington picked up his $6.5 million option. To do so was a simple decision.

Also still on the 40-man roster are Roenis Elías, Hunter Strickland, Javy Guerra, Tanner Rainey and Wander Suero. Quickly, a bullpen foundation emerges. A left-handed specialist remains a need. Another power arm to pitch late is necessary. And, with the latter, is where the question about Daniel Hudson enters. 

Hudson -- along with Howie Kendrick -- represents a core question for the World Series champions: What is repeatable?

There is a discernible need in Hudson’s case. Washington has to find a way to supplement Doolittle with another closer-level reliever. Free agent options are extremely limited.

Hudson, 33, put together the second-best season of his career in 2019. The only other year which personally rivaled his 2.0-WAR output last season came in 2010. He was a very effective starter across 11 games almost a decade ago. 

His careening 2019 path falls right in line with the Nationals’ own stop-and-go trajectory. Hudson was released by the Anaheim Angels on March 22. Three days later, he signed with Toronto. It traded him for right-handed minor-league pitcher Kyle Johnston, who is in Single-A, at the trade deadline. Suddenly, Hudson was en route to the playoffs as a premier part of a revamped bullpen.

He dominated after arriving: a 1.44 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and a crucial bridge during Doolittle's August injury. Hudson finished Game 7 of the World Series with a slider to strike out Michael Brantley. He pulled off his glove -- though he almost forgets the pledge he made with Doolittle to do so -- then hurled it toward the dugout before he began celebrating.

Real life often intervened for Hudson during the season. The birth of his third daughter became a national hot-take topic for a brief time and yet another embraced opportunity for proving stupidity on social media. Hudson went on the paternity list and missed Game 1 of the National League Championship Series because of the birth. A Google search of “Daniel Hudson paternity list” proves how far the story resonated. The top result is from People magazine. 

Hudson, meanwhile also adjusted to an on-field role he didn’t want: being Washington’s full-time, then part-time, closer put him in position to handle the ninth inning. He said late in the season, “I hate closing.” Turns out he was good at it. Hudson arrived with 11 career saves. He picked up 10 more between the regular season and postseason after joining the Nationals. 

He also struck a positive note with Doolittle. 

“I want Huddy back,” Doolittle told NBC Sports Washington. “I don’t know how that’s going to shake out. I know the market for relievers is relatively set, but I want Huddy back.

“I think it works. It was really a unique situation where you had a couple guys at the end of the day, like, we weren’t super-attached to that role or that title (closer), we just wanted to win.”

That’s a repeatable sentiment. But, at what cost? Hudson’s ERA from 2016-2018: 4.61. His ERA with the Nationals was more than three runs lower. Would Washington be paying for recency bias and sentimentality? Or can it find a price point where Hudson’s return would be in line with his likeliness to revert? 

He’s one player. However, he represents a key question and a key spot.

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Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen claims the Mets have "probably the deepest rotation in baseball

Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen claims the Mets have "probably the deepest rotation in baseball

By signing Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha this week, the Mets have built out quite the collection of starting pitchers. 

Porcello and Wacha will join Jacob de Grom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz in New York's starting rotation, a group general manager Brodie Van Wagenen thinks quite highly of. 

"There was a lot talked about our lack of starting pitching depth over the last couple of weeks," Van Wagenen said on SNYtv Thursday. "I think that story has changed, and I think that we're probably the deepest starting pitching rotation in baseball."

Considering the Mets share a division with the Nationals, who still boast a starting rotation headlined by Max Scherzer, World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, this is a pretty bold statement by Van Wagenen. 

Obviously he's the general manager and he has to say positive things about the club he's putting together. But to say those exact words on the heels of a rival winning a World Series because of their rotation? 

The Mets will host the Nationals in the first series of the season starting on March 26, so we may not have to wait long for these two rotations to face off. 

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Nationals prospect Sterling Sharp selected by Marlins in Rule 5 Draft

Nationals prospect Sterling Sharp selected by Marlins in Rule 5 Draft

The Nationals' No. 13 overall prospect is no longer in the organization, and it's not because of a trade that Washington made.

That's because the Miami Marlins selected pitcher Sterling Sharp with the No. 3 overall pick during Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. Sharp was susceptible to being drafted after the Nationals chose not to protect him by placing the right-hander on their 40-man roster.

The Marlins will pay Washington $100,000 for Sharp. The 24-year-old most remain on Miami's 25-man MLB roster for the entirety of the 2020 season or he will be offered back for $50,000.

Sharp, a 22nd round pick in the 2016 draft, made just nine starts for the Nationals Double-A affiliate Harrisburg in 2019 due to an oblique injury. His numbers were not especially eye-popping, as he posted a 3.99 ERA with an 8.2 K/9 ratio.

His performance in the Arizona Fall League was considerably better, where he put up a 1.50 ERA in six starts.

Sharp is incredibly athletic and could have played college basketball, according to MLB.com's Pipeline. Standing 6-foot-4, Sharp is known for his sinker and high ground-ball rate. In 2018, his last season fully healthy, he finished with 59.7 percent ground-ball rate, good for a Top 10 finish in all of the minors and the highest among qualified starters in the Nationals' farm system.

A three-pitch starter, Sharp has a solid changeup in his arsenal to go along with a low 90s fastball and his sinker.

Expected to make his MLB debut in 2020, Sharp could very well face his former team next season. As a divisional opponent, the Marlins will face the Nationals 19 times next season.

The Nationals did, however, select a prospect during the Minor League portion of the draft. Washington added switch-hitting shortstop Manuel Geraldo from the Giants system, who hit .255 with five home runs and 53 RBI in Double-A.

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