The Nationals are in agreement with veteran reliever Richard Bleier on a minor league contract, reports Andrew Golden of the Washington Post (X link). It seems likely the left-hander will get a look as a non-roster player in big league Spring Training.
Bleier, 37 next month, is looking to get to the majors for a ninth straight year. Despite well below-average velocity, he has managed a sub-3.00 ERA in five of his eight MLB campaigns. Bleier has never missed many bats, but he induces plenty of ground-balls behind his upper 80s sinker.
As recently as 2022, that translated to solid results. Bleier worked to a 3.55 ERA behind a 52.5% grounder percentage over 50 2/3 innings with the Marlins two years ago. The Red Sox acquired him in a reliever swap sending righty Matt Barnes to Miami last offseason, but Bleier had arguably the worst year of his career in Boston.
In 30 2/3 frames across 27 appearances, the Florida Gulf Coast product allowed 5.28 earned runs per nine. His 55.2% ground-ball rate was still well higher than average, but opponents did an uncharacteristic amount of damage when they did manage to get the ball in the air. Bleier surrendered five homers (1.47 per nine innings), the first time in his career he allowed more than a homer over every nine frames. Without his typical level of weak contact, Bleier’s subpar 12.1% strikeout rate became a more significant problem.
Boston designated him for assignment at the beginning of August. He cleared waivers and was released, setting the stage for a minor league contract with the Cubs. Bleier pitched five times for Chicago’s Triple-A team, allowing six runs with five walks and a pair of strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings. That wasn’t enough for a return to the majors.
Washington’s bullpen skews heavily to the right side. The Nats have Kyle Finnegan, Hunter Harvey, Jordan Weems, Tanner Rainey and offseason pickup Dylan Floro locked into bullpen roles. All those players throw right-handed. Lefty options include Robert Garcia, José A. Ferrer and fellow non-roster player Joe La Sorsa, all of whom still have minor league options remaining.