Former Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle is “close” to a deal with the Cincinnati Reds, The Athletic reported Tuesday. The lefty closer spent the offseason as a free agent for the first time in his career after pitching in Washington for the last three-and-a-half seasons.
Doolittle, 34, was acquired by the Nationals in a midseason trade with the Oakland A’s in 2017. He instantly became a fixture at the back end of their bullpen, recording 75 saves in 147 regular-season appearances for the team. Doolittle’s best season came in 2018, when he posted a 1.60 ERA with 25 saves across 45 innings while making his second All-Star Game.
Yet the most defining part of Doolittle’s legacy in D.C. are his contributions to the Nationals’ 2019 World Series run. One of only two trusted relievers in manager Davey Martinez’s bullpen, Doolittle allowed just two runs in nine playoff appearances. He secured the final out of Washington’s NLDS Game 5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers that gave them their first playoff series win since moving to D.C.
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Doolittle made just 11 appearances for the Nationals in 2020, posting a 5.87 ERA while his fastball velocity took a significant dip. Washington replaced the southpaw’s spot in its bullpen when it signed former Cleveland Indians closer Brad Hand to a one-year, $10.5 million deal in late January.
In Cincinnati, Doolittle will have the opportunity to bounce back from his rough 2020 campaign on a team that — despite a lack of moves this winter — is coming off season where it made the playoffs.