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Dave Martinez: “I don’t know what else to do”

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One night after losing to the Cubs on a two-out, two-strike, down-three, pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam to the Cubs, the Washington Nationals were in a barn-burner against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Nats were down 1-0, then up 4-2, then down 6-4 following a big Cardinals rally in the eighth, capped by a big Matt Carpenter home run, before somehow getting up off the mat and tying things back up at 6 in the top of the ninth inning. The bullpen has been bad, but even shaky relievers are successful more often than we imagine them to be. Having lost two of the previous three due to bullpen hiccups, there was no special reason to think that they’d lose late once again.

Koda Glover took the mound and attempted to close things out. He got ahead of Paul DeJong 1-0 and then promptly threw three balls. Not wanting to put the winning run on first base to lead off the inning, Glover threw a fastball right over the plate and then watched DeJong deposit it over the left field fence and into the bullpen to give the Nats their second walkoff loss in around 24 hours:

After Sunday’s game Nats players and coaches all gave the usual “gotta forget this one and move on to the next game” quotes. After last night’s loss, however, rookie manager Dave Martinez said this: “I don’t know what else to do.”

That answer came in response to the cratering of Sammy Solis in that ugly eighth inning, but it might as well apply to any of the Nats relievers or, for that matter, the Nationals as a team. It’s a lost, floundering group, seven games back in the National League East and six back in the Wild Card race with a mob of teams in front of them. They have lost 21 one-run games and there is absolutely no one down in that pen that Dave Martinez can count on at the moment.

Closer Sean Doolittle has been on the disabled list for weeks and weeks. Kelvin Herrera is on the disabled list with shoulder problems. Ryan Madson, who gave up David Bote‘s grand slam on Sunday, said afterward that he is hurt and could very well hit the disabled list soon. GM Mike Rizzo shipped Brandon Kintzler and Shawn Kelley out of town for allegedly being malcontents. That leaves Glover, Solis, Matt Grace, Greg Holland, Wander Suero and, I guess, thoughts and prayers for Martinez to turn to.

In his place I wouldn’t know what else to do either.

Yasiel Puig is still a free agent

Yasiel Puig
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Around this time last year, the ink was drying on Manny Machado‘s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres and Bryce Harper was about to put the finishing touches on his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. We had gotten used to premier free agents hanging out in limbo until late February and even into March. This past offseason, however, was a return to normal. The top three free agents — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg — all signed in December. Once the big names are off the board, the lesser free agents subsequently tend to find homes. There were a handful of noteworthy signings in January, but pretty much everyone was off the board when February began.

There are a handful of free agents remaining as I write this, with one name really sticking out: Yasiel Puig. Last season, between the Reds and Indians, Puig hit .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 611 plate appearances. He was one of only seven players in the league last year to hit at least 24 home runs and swipe at least 19 bases. While Puig has had some problems over the years, he still possesses a rare blend of power and speed that would seem useful.

The Marlins, White Sox, and Rockies have been linked to Puig this offseason. His market has been otherwise quiet since he became a free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden suggests Puig will have to settle for a “pillow contract” — a one-year deal with which Puig reestablishes his market value, aiming to pursue a multi-year deal the following offseason. Along with the aforementioned three teams, Bowden suggests the Mariners, Indians, Pirates, Giants, Red Sox, and Cardinals as other teams that could potentially fit with Puig, which is not to be confused with teams having expressed interest in his services.