It's not often that the signing of a middle relief pitcher excites me. Almost unheard of, really. The lone exceptions in the past have been LaTroy Hawkins and Kyle Farnsworth with the Yankees, but those two were simply for the comedic value.
When the last place Nationals came to terms with left handed relief pitcher Joe Beimel on a 1 year/$2 million dollar contract today, I must admit that I pumped my fist. And hell, I'm not even a Nationals fan.
What this move signals to Nationals fans is that the new front office, after so many missteps by previous GM Jim Bowden, actually cares about the team and believes it can produce a competitive product in 2009. I don't think there is anyone on the planet who expects the Nationals to compete for a playoff spot, but GM Mike Rizzo is sending a strong signal that the Nationals at least want to make noise in the NL East.
Joe Beimel is far from a savior and hell, he might not make too big of a difference with the Nationals when it's all said and done. But Rizzo's plan is clear: he wants to shorten the game the best he can by having as many quality arms in his bullpen as possible. Between Joel Hanrahan, Saul Rivera, Garrett Mock, and now Beilmel; the Nationals have a developing group in the back end of the bullpen that could enable the Nationals to actually hold leads late in games.
This deal has almost no downside for the Nationals and lots of potential upside. For "just" $2 million, the Nationals picked up a quality left handed arm out of the bullpen, who should help the Nationals become a deeper and more talented club. He can get out both lefties and righties with some level of efficiency, which would make him a solid 7th or 8th inning guy (I'm not sold on Beimel as a lefty specialist).
And you know what, if the Nationals struggle out of the gate, the Nationals could simply shop Beimel around the league for minor leaguers for prospects. And if Beimel has a good enough season, the Nats hopefully will get a draft pick (or two) from this signing. No matter how you slice it, Beimel is a no risk asset, which struggling teams like the Nationals need to have around.
It's refreshing to see a team picked by most experts to finish in last place actually spend some money on quality talent. The Nationals need to give people in DC a reason to care about baseball again, and while the signing of a left handed relief pitcher won't cause Nationals fans to jump up and down like 8 year old girls, it will make the team better in the short term and might help make the Nationals somewhat watchable this season.
And for the record, yes, I still think the Nationals will finish in last place in the NL East. But playing the Nationals will not be a cake walk for opposing teams like it was in years past. Expect lots of close games from this bunch. This team is far more talented than in previous seasons and I expect the Nationals to surprise some people and come close to 80 wins this season.
Are my expectations of the Nationals on the mark or crazy?