Feb 4, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
Age on Opening Day 2014: 30
How acquired: Traded from Athletics for OF Billy Burns, Dec. 2013
2014 salary: $1.675 million
2013 stats (w/OAK): 67 G, 14 GF, 60 IP, 47 H, 23 R, 21 ER, 7 HR, 17 BB, 52 K, 1.067 WHIP, 5-0, 3.15 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 0.3 WAR
2014 storyline: Recognizing how much they missed a quality left-handed reliever last season, the Nationals made it a priority this winter to acquire a proven southpaw. They struck the deal for Blevins during the Winter Meetings, liking both his track record of success — a 2.81 ERA and 1.119 WHIP over the last three seasons — and the fact he was under team control through 2015.
Blevins is coming off a bit of a strange year in Oakland, though, one in which he was far more effective against right-handed batters (who hit .190 with a .581 OPS) than left-handed batters (who hit .253 with a .741 OPS). He called those numbers a fluke, though he has always been comfortable facing right-handed hitters and wants to be used for a full inning of relief, not merely to face one or two batters. He should get a chance to face plenty from both sides of the plate in big spots this season.
Best-case scenario: Blevins proves to be exactly what the Nationals needed all along. He thoroughly dominates the NL East’s toughest left-handed batters and becomes Matt Williams’ go-to guy in those key situations. He also remains effective against right-handed hitters and sets new career-highs with 70 appearances and 70 innings pitched. Blevins posts a 2.50 ERA and becomes as important to the Nationals’ bullpen as Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen.
Worst-case scenario: The transition to the NL isn’t as smooth as Blevins or the Nationals hoped. Those reverse splits from 2013 prove a harbinger of things to come, and left-handed batters enjoy real success against him. Williams loses faith in Blevins and only uses him in favorable situations, forced to rely instead on Clippard to get the really tough left-handed hitters out. Blevins winds up with a 4.00 ERA over 50 appearances, and the Nats consider non-tendering his contract next winter.
Most-likely scenario: Blevins isn’t the best left-handed reliever in the game, but he’s much better than what the Nationals had in 2013. He functions mostly as a match-up reliever, facing one or two batters per outing, but is mostly reliable and effective, especially against left-handed batters. He makes 60 appearances, posts a 3.25 ERA and proves an important bridge between Nationals starters and the guys at the back end of the ‘pen.
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