Nationals sign left-handed reliever in one of first offseason moves


The Nationals, desperate for left-handed relief help, signed reliever Sam Clay to a major-league contract Wednesday. Terms were not disclosed.

Clay spent seven seasons with the Minnesota Twins. He has never pitched in the major leagues.

The move pushes the Nationals’ very open 40-man roster to 31. They, along with the rest of the league, are waiting to sign any big-ticket free agents or even position players since the league has not determined the 2021 rules of play. Winter signings are going to be slow and laborious as everyone grapples with an unknown market.

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Clay was selected by Minnesota in the fourth round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of Georgia Tech. In six minor-league seasons, he is 24-24 with 20 saves and a 3.97 ERA in 187 games. His prime skill: forcing ground balls. Clay led minor league baseball in groundball rate in 2019. However, his walk rate undermines his success with soft contact and reasonable strikeout rate.

The Nationals bullpen is among several portions of the team which need work. Daniel Hudson, Tanner Rainey and Will Harris will return for the late innings. Kyle Finnegan and Wander Suero will work before them. A long man is needed (and could again come out of who loses the fifth starter spot). Another high-end arm would be beneficial to the entire group. And multiple options are on the market: Alex Colomé, Liam Hendriks, Blake Treinen, Brad Hand and more.