The Nationals have just announced a Minor League contract with veteran reliever Sean Doolittle. The agreement includes an invitation to 2023 Major League Spring Training. The lefty had recently expressed his desire to pitch in 2023 and welcomed a return to Washington.
Doolittle returned for a fifth season with the Nationals in 2022 after spending the 2021 season with the Reds and the Mariners. However, the 36-year-old dealt with an elbow sprain in mid-April and only appeared in six games, throwing 5 1/3 scoreless innings and allowing only one of the seventeen batters he faced to reach base. While working his way back from the issue, the lefty experienced a setback that forced him to undergo an internal brace procedure in mid-July to repair damage to the UCL in his throwing elbow. The internal brace procedure came with an expected five-to-six-month recovery timetable, so there is hope that Doolittle will be ready by the start of Spring Training.
As a team, the Nationals had a roughly average bullpen, pitching to a collective solid 3.84 ERA (15th lowest), a low 21.5% strikeout rate (25th lowest), and a good 8.6% walk rate (11th lowest). However, as discussed in MLBTR’s Offseason Outlook, the Nationals were likely candidates to add to their bullpen, with Erasmo Ramirez and Steve Cishek entering free agency and Tanner Rainey likely to miss most or all of 2023 due to Tommy John surgery.
With the Nats in the midst of a rebuild and ownership exploring a sale of the team, Doolittle represents a low-risk high-reward relief pitcher that may be flipped for prospects at the 2023 Trade Deadline.