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UPDATED: Nats sign reliever Valverde to minor-league deal

Apr 29, 2015, 6:06 PM EST

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Updated at 6:06 p.m.

ATLANTA — Seeking some experienced help for a bullpen that has struggled through the season’s first three weeks, the Nationals have signed veteran Jose Valverde to a minor-league contract, general manager Mike Rizzo confirmed Wednesday evening.

Valverde, 37, has been at the Nationals’ spring training complex in Viera, Fla., for about a week, building his arm up after getting released by the Padres last month. The club will make a decision soon whether to send the veteran right-hander to a minor-league affiliate, the big leagues or whether to pass altogether.

“It was a minor-league deal, and we’ll see where it takes us,” Rizzo said. “If we can catch lightning in a bottle with him, it certainly would be a good story.”

Valverde provides some low-risk insurance for a Nationals bullpen that has seen massive turnover in the last six months. The five relievers who threw the most innings for the club in 2014 are now all gone (Tyler Clippard, Rafael Soriano, Ross Detwiler, Jerry Blevins) or injured (Craig Stammen). Additionally, veteran right-hander Casey Janssen (signed over the winter to take over primary setup duties) has yet to debut due to tendinitis in his throwing shoulder.

Valverde’s deal includes no guarantee he’ll make the big-league roster, but if he convinces club officials he is big-league-ready over the next few weeks, he could be called up and provide some immediate veteran presence to a bullpen that is sorely lacking in experienced arms.

Aside from closer Drew Storen and 38-year-old lefty Matt Thornton, the Nationals bullpen currently consists of starter-turned-reliever Tanner Roark, second-year right-handers Aaron Barrett and Blake Treinen and rookie left-hander Matt Grace. Grace is one of three relievers who has made his major-league debut for the Nationals in the last two weeks, along with recently demoted right-hander Rafael Martin and injured lefty Felipe Rivero.

Valverde is a 3-time All-Star with 288 career saves and a 3.27 ERA in 626 appearances with four franchises, but he has been woefully ineffective over the last two seasons with a 5.63 ERA in 41 combined games between the Tigers and Mets.

Originally signed by the Diamondbacks in 1997 out of his native Dominican Republic, the big reliever known as “Papa Grande” first made a name for himself in Arizona when Rizzo was scouting director.

“We saw him in the Winter Leagues,” Rizzo said. “His velocity was there. He’s got a track record. We’ve got a relationship with him. He’s a guy I signed a long time ago, and I know he’s a guy who will fit into any clubhouse he goes and pitches with.”

  1. David Proctor - Apr 29, 2015 at 1:17 PM

    Oh boy. We’ve reached rock bottom with bullpen arms. I’d have rather re-signed Soriano than this guy, even factoring in the sizable difference in salary.

  2. virginiascopist - Apr 29, 2015 at 1:19 PM

    If we’re looking for bodies, what about Grant Balfour? I seem to recall that Rizzo was seriously considering him (and may have even made him an offer) when he was a free agent. I mean, he’s definitely buy low; his stock can’t get much lower.

  3. nataddicted - Apr 29, 2015 at 1:24 PM

    Interesting news but it doesn’t effect the two roster moves we make later today. We’re down an outfielder, and a RH reliever for the next couple of hours.

    Maybe dominoes are gonna fall? What was that noise?

  4. scnatsfan - Apr 29, 2015 at 2:08 PM

    Keep throwing them against the wall, see who sticks… if any

    • virginiascopist - Apr 29, 2015 at 2:20 PM

      Maybe we should see if Heath Bell wants to un-retire.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Apr 29, 2015 at 3:35 PM

        Eddie Guardado! Unless he’s still p.o.’d.

  5. unkyd59 - Apr 29, 2015 at 2:42 PM

    Solis recalled, with MAT (Cole back down, Reed DL). Fresh BP arm needed after yesterday…. First cuppa for Sammy, right…?

    • Drew - Apr 29, 2015 at 2:55 PM

      Yep, Solis becomes the sixth big leaguer from the Nats’ 2010 draft:

      Harper, Solis, Cole, Grace, Barrett, Ray.

  6. Section 222 - Apr 29, 2015 at 2:44 PM

    Low risk? Hardly.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Apr 29, 2015 at 3:31 PM

      It’s only risky if they use him.

      • Section 222 - Apr 29, 2015 at 3:56 PM

        Exactly. Very risky.

  7. Sec 3, My Sofa - Apr 29, 2015 at 3:47 PM

    Brian Wilson is still out there. Carlos Marmol. Probably lots of guys on minor league deals around the league who wouldn’t cost that much in trade.

  8. AlexandriaNatFan - Apr 29, 2015 at 9:38 PM

    As long as we’re reaching for the stars….R I V E R A

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