The Washington Nationals added to their middle relief depth this week by adding original National Luis Ayala to the 40 man roster. Ayala entered the major leagues as a Montreal Expo in 2003, and has played for the Expos, Nats, New York Mets, Minnesota Twins, Florida Marlins, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, and Atlanta Braves over his lengthy career.
Ayala was signed to a minor league deal, but would make $1 million if he makes the opening day roster. He had a solid season with the division rival Braves in 2013, producing a 1-1 record with a 2.90 ERA. Though he will be 36 during the 2014 season, Ayala does not appear to be slowing down just yet. His strong season last year proves that he still has some more innings left in the tank, and he has an opportunity to help the Nationals next season.
The back of Washington’s bullpen is essentially set for the time being. The Nationals plan to have Rafael Soriano as the closer, with Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard as experience setup men. The starters are also 80% established, as the final rotation spot is the only one that is still up for grabs.
The middle of the bullpen, however, is not as firmly set into stone. Candidates for these positions include, recently acquired Jerry Blevins, Xavier Cedeno, Craig Stammen, and Ryan Mattheus. Ayala and other non-roster invitee Manny Delcarmen will also compete for spots in the bullpen.
I project Ayala to make the opening day roster. His 2013 season was better than many of those had by the incumbents also hoping to obtain a coveted position in the pitching staff. Ayala has helped many teams within the last decade, including the Nationals during their original season. Look for Ayala to have an immediate impact on Washington, and benefit what appears to be an already solid relief corp.