CINCINNATI — Looking to fortify a bullpen that has blown more than a third of its save chances, the Washington Nationals acquired relievers Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle from the Oakland Athletics for right-hander Blake Treinen and a pair of prospects.
Left-hander Jesus Luzardo and infielder Sheldon Neuse were sent to Oakland as part of Sunday’s deal.
A 36-year-old right-hander, Madson has a 2.06 ERA and is seventh among relievers in hits plus walks per inning at 0.79. He has not allowed any of the seven inherited runners to score in his past 13 appearances and has held opponents to a .188 batting average.
Doolittle is a 30-year-old left-hander who has held left-handed batters hitless in 23 at-bats this year with 12 strikeouts and no walks. He is 1-0 with three saves, a 3.38 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings.
NL East-leading Washington has a strong rotation led by Max Scherzer (11-5), Stephen Strasburg (9-3) and Gio Gonzalez (8-4) but has converted just 22 of 36 save chances. Bullpen issues helped lead to the Nationals’ elimination in the NL Division Series in 2012, 2014 and 2016. The Montreal Expos/Nationals franchise has never reached the World Series.
Nationals closer Koda Glover converted eight of 10 save chances but has not pitched since June 10 because of severe inflammation of the rotator cuff. Treinen, 29, started the season as Washington’s closer and is 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA in 37 relief appearances, allowing opponents a .320 batting average.
Washington assumes the rest of Madson’s $7.5 million salary this season and his $7.5 million salary in 2018. The Nationals also pay the remainder of Doolittle’s $2.6 million salary this year and his $4.35 million pay in 2018. Washington acquires options for Doolittle at $6 million for 2019 and $6.5 million in 2020, with a $500,000 buyout if either is declined.
In addition, the Nationals must pay $250,000 assignment bonuses to both pitchers.
Neuse, a 22-year-old who plays shortstop and third, was a second-round draft pick in 2016 and is hitting .291 with nine homers and 51 RBIs at Class A Hagerstown in the South Atlantic League.
Luzardo, 19, was a third-round draft pick in 2016 and is 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA at the Gulf Coast Rookie League Nationals in his return from Tommy John surgery on March 22 last year.
Washington right-hander Joe Ross, who is to have Tommy John surgery on Wednesday, was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. Oakland selected the contract of right-hander Simon Castro from Triple-A Nashville.