The Nationals are set to re-sign free agent reliever Brandon Kintzler to a two-year deal, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports in a tweet. The deal is pending a physical. Kintzler acknowledged that he’ll be returning to D.C. in an interview with MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link).
Contract details are still coming in, and they paint a somewhat complicated picture. The deal guarantees Kintzler $10MM over a two-year term, Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reports (Twitter link), and could reach $16MM in value. But the way it operates is through competing 2019 options, as Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post (Twitter link) and Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com explain. Kintzler will receive a $5MM salary for the upcoming season. An escalator will determine the price of a club option for the 2019 campaign — potentially as high as $11MM. If the Nats decline at whatever the price becomes, then Kintzler will have a $5MM player option to fall back on, though in theory both sides could end up declining and he could return to the open market.
Kintzler, 33, pitched 26 innings for the Nationals last season after being acquired from the Twins in exchange for Tyler Watson and $500K in international bonus pool money. The righty posted a 3.46 ERA in Washington, chipping in a save for the club.
The Brewers picked Kintzler with the number 1,182 pick in the 2004 draft (40th round). After two seasons in the low minors and a year away from the sport in 2006, he eventually ended up playing independent ball until Milwaukee offered him a new minor league contract in 2009. Kintzler climbed quickly through the ranks this time and made his MLB debut the following year. He pitched well out of the Brewers’ bullpen from his sophomore season on; his ERA with the club never climbed above 3.78 from 2011-2014.
After an injury ended his 2015 season, Kintzler was forced to settle for a minor league deal with the Twins the following winter. He became the team’s closer almost immediately and has posted impressive results ever since.
Kintzler is a fascinating case study; the right-hander has vastly outperformed his ERA estimators over the past two seasons. Furthermore, across 2016-2017 he has the 14th-highest ground ball rate among qualified relievers, and the second-lowest strikeout rate. It’s clear Kintzler’s success is built upon an ability to limit hard contact while generating ground balls. He’ll slot in behind Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson, reuniting the Nats’ late-inning crew from last year’s playoff run.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.