Mere minutes before the MLB Trade Deadline, the Washington Nationals reached an agreement with Minnesota to acquire RHP Brandon Kintzler for LHP Tyler Watson and international bonus pool money. A 2017 all-star for the Twins, Kintzler has worked as Minnesota’s closer the past two seasons, and should immediately upgrade the Nationals’ bullpen. In a related move, the Nationals have designated RHP Jimmy Cordero for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster.
The 32-year-old Kintzler was a middling reliever for Milwaukee the first six years of his career, before breaking out the past two in Minnesota, posting a 2.98 ERA and 45 saves over 99.2 innings with 62 strikeouts against only 21 walks. While Kintzler lacks big swing-and-miss stuff (only 6.3 K/9), he limits his walks (2.2 BB/9), home runs allowed (0.8 HR/9) and induces ground balls at a strong 57.8% for his career. He features primarily a 94mph sinker, along with a mid-90s 4-seam fastball, 87mph slider and upper-80s changeup. There is some question whether he will work as the primary closer for Washington, but he should form a strong trio with Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson in the late innings. Washington is on the hook for the remainder of Kintzler’s $2,925,000 salary before he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.
In return for Kintzler, Washington was forced to part with Tyler Watson, the team’s 2015 34th round pick who was signed to an overslot $400,000 bonus. Blessed with a projectable 6-5 200lbs body, Watson possesses an impressive 3-pitch arsenal, featuring an 89-91mph fastball, a low-80s changeup and a mid-70s curveball. Watson is a polished lefty with impressive command and an advanced approach attacking hitters. Both his fastball and changeup project as average to above-average, with his curveball lagging behind as a probable fringe-average pitch. Watson profiles as a #5 starter or long-reliever, with the ceiling of a #4 if his curveball improves with experience.
For more on Watson, please see my scouting report here -> http://natsgm.com/2017/05/10/scouting-tyler-watson-lhp-hagerstown-suns/
Also, Washington will send international bonus pool money to Minnesota in this trade, reported to be $500,000 by MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. Due to ramifications from last year’s budget-breaking international crop, Washington is facing penalties internationally this year, making these funds somewhat extraneous. However, it is still disappointing to see Washington not investing the portion they could trying to discover the next Victor Robles.
Washington and Minnesota completed a rather traditional trade deadline swap, as the contending Nationals acquired an impending free agent to bolster their bullpen from the rebuilding Twins. Minnesota should be commended for obtaining a intriguing prospect plus international money for two months of Kintzler. On the other hand, Washington’s bullpen and roster are stronger now with Kintzler, who lengthens the bullpen and gives them another closing option.
Unfortunately this feels like a small “overpay” by the Nationals, giving up yet another left-handed pitching prospect and a hefty international sum for the pure rental of a non-elite reliever. Kintzler does not feel like the “significant upgrade” Washington arguably needed to compete with Chicago and Los Angeles to reach the World Series. Considering superior option Justin Wilson was traded and Zach Britton and Brad Hand were likely available, this deal feels underwhelming like getting a pair of Latrell Sprewell’s Spinner shoes rather than classic Air Jordans. Eventually I would have likely made this same swap, but I am left feeling like this was not the best move Washington could possibly make.
NatsGM Grade -> C / C-