The Washington Nationals signed former closer Mike MacDougal to a minor league contract today, only one day after he had been cut from a camp-invite with the Florida Marlins. The flame-throwing righty saved 20 out of 21 games for the Nationals and posted a 3.60 ERA with the club in 52 games to seemingly rejuvinate the Nationals bullpen in 2009. However MacDougal, 32, allowed five earned runs in 4.2 innings pitched in his spring stint with Florida, walking seven and only striking out two.
The Nationals surprised some this winter when they elected to non-tender MacDougal, who was up for arbitration. Due to his stellar stint with Washington in 2009, and his previous contract, MacDougal was in line to make upwards of $3 million in arbitration. But with an off-season hip surgery and a history of inconsistency, the Nationals decided to let him test the market. In the end it turned out to be a smart move, as the Nationals sign him for a minor league deal worth about $800-900 K. By waiting to sign MacDougal until, almost literally, the last minute, the Nationals saved at-least $2 million dollars. What's even more encouraging is that the Nationals have been monitoring MacDougal and believe they know what they can tweak to bring him back to his 2009 form.
Letting go of MacDougal was a risky move for a team who had arguably the worst bullpen in baseball in 2009. Rizzo took the gutsy move of letting go of his best bullpen hand in order to free up room to go after other elements. One of them was former Yankees ace, Chien-Ming Wang. The Nats landed Wang for $2 million dollars this winter, and could very well end up being the best signing in the National League when it's all said and done this year.
MacDougals 2010 Projections
Bill James: 4.43 ERA, 7.93 K/9, 5.24 BB/9
CHONE: 4.67 ERA, 7.67 K/9, 6.00 BB/9
MARCEL: 4.50 ERA, 6.67 K/9, 5.00 BB/9