Washington Nationals Should Pursue Athletics’ Travis Blackley


The Oakland Athletics made a pair of roster moves this evening, claiming right-handed pitchers Danny Otero and Josh Stinson from the Yankees and Brewers, respectively. Oakland made corresponding moves by designating first baseman Daric Barton and left-handed pitcher Travis Blackley for assignment.

July 29, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Oakland Athletics pitcher Travis Blackley (54) pitches in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the Athletics 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Barton has not yet lived up to the potential the St. Louis Cardinals saw in him back in 2003, and will probably be of no interest to the Nationals, but Mike Rizzo and company should take note of Blackley’s availability. In his first season back from Korea last year, Blackley pitched to a 3.86 ERA as both a starter and reliever for the A’s, helping them win their first Division Title since 2006.

The Nationals will start the season with just a single left-hander in their bullpen, and while the likes of Bill Bray and JC Romero are available to call up from AAA Syracuse, both are works in progress at this point. Bray needs time to work on his mechanics – something the Nationals cannot afford to let him do in the big leagues – and  Romero will need some more game action after making just one appearance this Spring. So, even if Davey Johnson does not believe in handedness matchups, the bottom line is that the Nationals could use another left-hander seeing as their only one on the roster is first in line to step into the starting rotation pending an injury.

Blackley provides that, and the Nationals can get him for next-to nothing. The Oakland A’s will have to trade him in the coming days, or see him claimed on waivers while getting nothing in return. Blackley is also valuable in that he can start or relieve, which is even more valuable for a team like Washington with current depth options like Ross Ohlendorf and Yunesky Maya unlikely to produce if called upon. While Blackley is 30 years old, he’s not eligible for arbitration until 2015 and is under team control until 2017. And if that wasn’t enough, he’s a Metal-loving beard-rocking Australian with a funny personality.

The Nationals already have their bullpen set for 2013, as they announced earlier today that Henry Rodriguez was awarded the final spot in the big-league bullpen. However, Blackley’s versatility and much more steady walk-rate (2.3 BB/9 as to Rodriguez’s 6.8 BB/9) could convince management to change their mind, and even if they want to keep H-Rod’s electric arm off waivers, Ryan Mattheus could be optioned to AAA as well.

While there are no true “needs” on the Washington roster, having options and versatility is often what makes the difference between a playoff team and a World Series team. Travis Blackley would (probably) not single-handedly make the Nationals capable of winning it all, but anything helps.