Last week during the winter meetings news broke the Washington Nationals and free agent Brandon Kintzler had agreed to terms on a 2-year contract, with both a club and player option for the 2nd season. The math is rather fuzzy, as Kintzler is guaranteed $10 million overall, with a $5 million salary for 2018 and a $10 million club option for Washington in 2019 or a $5 million player option if the team declines their option. In total, Kintzler can earn a maximum of $16 million for the next two years.
Washington acquired Kintzler last July for prospect Tyler Watson and international bonus funds in an effort to strengthen their relief corps. The 33-year-old Kintzler spent the past two seasons working as Minnesota’s closer, posting a 2.98 ERA and 45 saves over 99.2 innings for the Twins, while notching an all-star selection in 2017. Upon arriving in Washington, Kintzler provided a stabilizing force in the bullpen, giving the Nationals a 3.46 ERA and 1.154 WHIP, with 12 strikeouts against only 5 walks over 26 innings.
While Kintzler lacks swing-and-miss stuff (only 6.1 K/9), he limits his walks (2.2 BB/9), home runs allowed (0.79 HR/9) and induces ground balls at a strong 57.7% for his career. He features primarily a 94mph sinker, along with a mid-90s 4-seam fastball, 87mph slider and upper-80s changeup. He should return to his role as one-third of the “The Law Firm” of Kintzler, Madson & Doolittle next season and gives Washington a needed veteran presence in their bullpen.
Similarly to the Matt Adams signing, Washington’s front office should be commended for identifying a weakness on their roster, namely bullpen depth, and moving swiftly to acquire a good fit at a reasonable price. In a market where inferior relievers like Juan Nicasio (2yrs $17 million) and Anthony Swarzak (2yrs $14 million) signed for larger guaranteed money, Kintzler’s contract feels like a relative bargain. Washington obviously liked what they saw from him last season, and conversely, Kintzler must have felt comfortable with the organization as well. Certainly there is risk involved with any free agent reliever and particularly one with Kintzler’s middling velocity, however, Washington did well to secure an above-average 7th/8th inning reliever for “only” $5 million next season.
NatsGM Overall Grade -> B