Though the Washington Nationals have gotten out to a huge lead in the National League East and have proven themselves to be one of the best teams in baseball, they have a huge hole at the back end of their bullpen.
The rotating cast of Washington closers has blown one-third of the team's save chances this season, a trend that the Nationals must put an end to before the playoffs start.
Therefore, with the July 31 trade deadline approaching, the Nationals decided to act quickly and made a trade for two talented veteran relievers on Sunday.
According to Nationals.com, the Nationals traded for Oakland A's left-handed co-closer Sean Doolittle and his cohort, right-handed reliever Ryan Madson, both of whom will slide into important roles in the Washington bullpen, likely immediately taking over as the team's closers.
In return, the Nationals sent former closer Blake Treinen to Oakland along with a pair of prospects - left-handed pitcher Jesus Luzardo and third baseman Sheldon Neuse.
When reached for comment by Nationals.com, Doolittle said the trade caught him completely off-guard, but quickly added that he's excited for his new opportunity to pitch for a team firmly in the playoff race:
"I'm still a little bit in shock, I guess a little bit," Doolittle said. "That's not to say I'm not super excited to be headed where I'm headed. It's close to where I grew up, it's close to where I went to college, there's some familiar faces over there. Obviously, they're in a really good position right now. All that being said, I'm excited to go play some meaningful baseball here down the stretch."
Indeed, Doolittle and Madson will be playing some very important games over the next couple of months, as the Nationals currently sport a record of 55-36 and lead the NL East by 9.5 games over the second-place Atlanta Braves.
However, it's not hard to imagine how much better the Nats would be if they had a closer and a couple of setup men who could consistently protect late-inning leads.
The A's, meanwhile, get a talented, but often wild, reliever in Treinen and two intriguing prospects in Neuse and Luzardo. For a team that is currently 41-50 and trailing the AL West-leading Houston Astros by a whopping 20.5 games midway through the season, building for the future is a smart move.
In 21.1 innings of work this season, Doolittle has a 3.38 ERA, three saves and 31 strikeouts. Madson has a 2.06 ERA in 39.1 innings of work to go with 39 strikeouts and one save.
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