There are reports that the Washington Nationals are on the search for a closer (again), and rumour has it that they’ve asked about Roberto Osuna.
Yesterday there was a small rumour buzzing about social media that Roberto Osuna was a reported target of the Washington Nationals. The Nats are in search of a closer, as they have been since last season, and would like to add to the back of their bullpen, shoring up one of the only weaknesses on a team that’s 25-15 and 8 games ahead in the NL East.
The report comes from Jon Heyman at Fanrag sports, mentioning Osuna as one of five possible targets for the Nationals. Other names mentioned included David Robertson (White Sox), Alex Colome (Rays), Kelvin Herrera (Royals), A.J. Ramos (Marlins), and Mark Melancon (Giants). Some of those arms may be more available than others, as Robertson is surely on the block for the White Sox to some degree.
The reports elicited an unpleasant reaction for Blue Jays’ fans online, and understandably so. Osuna is one of the Blue Jays’ most valuable resources as a young talent with a cheap salary and several years of control. And for those reasons, Blue Jays fans can relax about the idea. Simply put, it’s not going to happen.
Let’s assume for a minute that the Blue Jays would entertain the idea, as anything is possible I suppose. It’s not that easy to find a comparable trade with a affordable young closer like Osuna, but there are a few things we can look at for reference here.
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Last season the Yankees traded Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs in exchange for Adam Warren, prospect Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford, and impressive haul for the dominant closer. I’m not saying that Osuna is on the same level as Chapman, but there are several variables to consider here.
Chapman was scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the season, so the Cubs were only getting less than half a season from the talented Cuban. It did pay off for them though, so mission accomplished. But the Cubs had a price to pay as Torres is a highly rated prospect (consensus top 50 at the time of the trade), and Mckinney had also been in the top 100 list at one time as well. A solid package on behalf of the Cubs, especially considering the short stint they benefitted from Chapman’s presence.
Because of the lack of contract control, and the price tag (he makes 11.32 million this season alone), I would argue that Osuna’s value in a trade should exceed Chapman’s, and probably by quite a bit. By comparison, Osuna is making 552,400 this season, and won’t be a free agent until the 2021 campaign. He’ll get more expensive as he goes through arbitration, but he’s an absolute bargain at the moment.
The package the Nationals had to send to Chicago to acquire Adam Eaton is another relevant comparison to consider, although again, not an ideal place to work from in trade discussions. The Nationals sent Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning to the White Sox, with both Giolito and Lopez being rated as top 10 MLB prospects at the time, and Dunning being a recent 1st round pick.
Eaton was worth 5.7 bWAR in 2016, ranking as one of the better outfield defenders in the game, and adding some nice tools in the batting lineup as well. Unfortunately he’s been lost for the season to injury with a torn ACL, but the Nationals will still benefit from his acquisition next season and beyond.
The value of closers has risen in recent seasons, but admittedly, not quite to 5.7 bWAR levels of importance. Osuna was worth 2.1 bWAR, a rock solid rating for someone who only pitched 74 regular season innings, but obviously not at the level that Eaton produced. In addition, Eaton has plenty of club contract to offer at an affordable rate as well.
So using these two admittedly weak comparisons, what would the Nationals have to give up to acquire someone like Osuna? I honestly don’t know, but the answer would likely end up somewhere between the two examples above. The Nationals do have some decent prospects remaining in their system, but would they pay a big price for Osuna, when they could hand over a much smaller package for someone like Robertson? Not bloody likely.
So we can all relax Blue Jays fans, at least when it comes to the 22 year old closer. The Blue Jays may end up making some trades this year, but he won’t be among them unless the return is really over the top.