Nationals, Blanton agree on one-year deal

Nationals, Blanton agree on one-year deal

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Nationals made a move Tuesday to bolster their bullpen and increase their depth when they agreed to sign right-hander Joe Blanton to a one-year deal.

The club announced the signing, which was pending a physical, on Thursday. MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported that the contract is worth $4 million with up to $1 million more in performance bonuses. Catcher Spencer Kieboom was designated for assignment to make roster space.

The Nats made improving their bullpen one of their top priorities this offseason, but had not landed a veteran reliever. They made offers at a few of the top free-agent closers, including Mark Melancon before he signed with the Giants and Kenley Jansen before he re-signed with the Dodgers. The most significant addition to the Nationals' bullpen was left-hander Enny Romero, who throws hard and has potential but has struggled with control problems.

Although Blanton, 36, doesn't have any experience as a closer, he figures to step into a prominent late-inning role. He excelled in that role with the Dodgers in 2016, when he had a 2.48 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 75 appearances.

Blanton should add depth to the Nationals bullpen that will include Shawn Kelley, Blake Treinen, Sammy Solis and Oliver Perez.

The signing is further proof that the Nationals are still tinkering with their roster even as the calendar has turned to March. After a relatively quiet offseason, they have made three key free-agent additions since the start of Spring Training. A day before pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report, they agreed to a deal with first baseman/outfielder Adam Lind. Last week, they signed Matt Wieters to be their new starting catcher.

And now Blanton helps address their perceived biggest weakness and adds another option to the late-inning reliever mix.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.