Nationals

Nationals

Friday’s MLB deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players brought one question to the Nationals: Would it end Sammy Solis’ eight-year run with the organization?

Turns out, no. Solis and the Nationals agreed to a contract, avoiding arbitration and at least bringing the 30-year-old left-hander back to spring training. Teams are allowed to release arbitration-eligible players 15 days before their season opener and be responsible for only one-sixth of the salary. MLB Trade Rumors projected Solis to receive $900,000 if he went to arbitration. Working off that number, though Solis’ agreement is probably a bit lower, the Nationals are on the hook for $150,300 at this point. If Solis earns a spot, they go into the season with him in the bullpen. If not, the cost to move on is modest.

Solis was one of seven Nationals players poised for arbitration (those with more than three and fewer than six years of big league service time, plus the top 22 percent of those with two years-plus service time). Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, Tanner Roark, Kyle Barraclough, Joe Ross and Michael A. Taylor were guaranteed to receive a one-year contract offer. The first four on that list have apparent and vital roles next season. Ross will be fighting, again, for a rotation spot. Taylor is inexpensive fourth outfielder insurance. Their futures were not in question. They just need to reach agreements now.

There is a need in the Nationals’ bullpen for Solis’ would-be skill-set. Another left-hander is important. Someone who could theoretically pitch multiple innings is important. However, Solis spent the last two seasons regressing to the point he was no longer trusted in any weighted situation. In particular, his performance foundered against left-handed hitting (.993 OPS against last season), which meant he failed in his top priority.

 

Solis was recently effective before two years of injuries, mixed performance and shuttling between Triple-A and the majors. His 2.41 ERA in 2016 made him one of the more potent options out of the Nationals bullpen. Everything slipped after that, again showing the combustibility of any bullpen piece.

The prior moves sending him to the minors and bringing him back exhausted his options. Which means if he makes it out of the spring with the Nationals, and struggles, they would be forced to place him on waivers. Maybe he would be claimed by another team. Or he would be back to Triple-A. Neither is a great outcome.

Solis joins Matt Grace as the left-handed, non-closer options looking for a bullpen spot. Grace is all but assured of one following a quality 2018. Beyond him, several free agent left-handed relievers are available. 

Zach Britton is a free agent, as is Andrew Miller. They are probably too costly for the more situational presence the Nationals are likely to search for in this spot. Tony Sipp, Oliver Perez and Justin Wilson are other left-handers in the market. Anticipate another left-hander in West Palm Beach, then the Nationals sorting things out from there during one more chance for Solis. 

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