According to several different media outlets on Tuesday morning, former Dodgers‘ reliever Joe Blanton has agreed to terms with the Nationals for a reported $4 million over one season. As specified by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the contract also includes potential performance bonuses which could total up to $1 million.
It is conceivable that Blanton may be considered for the role of closer in Washington, as the Nats were rumored to have been scouring the free agent market for a logical fit. Internal candidates Blake Treinen, Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover were believed to be among the relievers competing for that specific spot so far during spring camp.
The Nationals will be the seventh team in Blanton’s 12-year career. In addition to the Dodgers, Blanton has pitched for the Pirates, Royals, Phillies, Angels and Athletics.
While it’s unknown if the Dodgers made any serious offers for the 36-year-old righty, there were rumors over the winter indicating that he preferred a multi-year deal heading into 2017, but wouldn’t sign a contract for anything less than $4 million for a single season.
His new contract with Washington is identical to his one-year, $4 million contract last season with the Dodgers, in which he also earned an additional $1 million in performance-based incentives.
At the beginning of the winter, several outlets estimated projected deals for Blanton to be in the range of two years and $10 million dollars total. Last season, he ranked sixth in the majors with 80 innings pitched out of the bullpen, including a 2.48 ERA, a 3.33 FIP, a 25.4% strikeout rate and a 8.3% walk rate. But perhaps a number of prospective suitors were contemplating other peripherals like his ground ball rate, which plummeted from 48.6% in 2015 to 32.5% last year. Furthermore, towards the end of the season in the NLCS he appeared to be running on fumes having been pounded by the Cubs, allowing seven runs and three homers in three outings.
Overall last season, he appeared in 75 games for the Dodgers, which far and away led the club. He was completely out of baseball in 2014, but rediscovered himself as a reliever with both the Royals and Pirates in 2015 before signing a free agent deal with Los Angeles.
Many fans of the Dodgers have assumed that Blanton was likely offered the $3 million deal which was eventually accepted by Sergio Romo, but respectively declined. Although Romo is the early favorite to succeed Blanton as the club’s primary eighth-inning setup option, there’s a long list of other candidates, including Grant Dayton, Pedro Baez, Josh Fields, Chris Hatcher and Brandon Morrow.
Blanton’s agreement with the Nationals is pending a physical exam.