- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Washington Nationals addressed an area of need Wednesday, bolstering their left-handed bullpen options with the signing of Sam Clay to a major league contract.

Clay spent seven seasons with the Twins organization, but he never made his debut for Minnesota. The 27-year-old’s addition in Washington brings its 40-man roster up to 31 players, leaving room to maneuver. The team will likely look to add another starting pitcher, a catcher, at least one first baseman and an outfielder during free agency.

In 2019, Clay appeared in 45 games split between the Double-A and Triple-A levels. He averaged 2.57 strikeouts for every walk and recorded 10 saves across 69.1 innings pitched. He showed an ability to eat innings, too, appearing for at least two frames on 17 of his 45 appearances.

While he was on the Twins’ 60-player pool in 2020, he never appeared. In six seasons across the minor leagues, Clay — who Minnesota selected in the fourth round of the 2014 draft from Georgia Tech — went 24-24, recording 20 saves and a 3.97 ERA.

According to the Nationals, Clay’s groundball rate in 2019 was 71.3 percent, the highest mark in the minors. He’s only allowed one home run since the start of the 2017 season, which could make him a valuable southpaw should the team need a double-play ball.

Washington found success last offseason signing a reliever to a big league deal before he ever made his debut. Kyle Finnegan was in the same boat last year, and the right-hander impressed during the coronavirus-altered 2020 campaign, pitching in 24.2 innings and holding a 2.92 ERA.

Clay joins a bullpen that could still use some work. While late-inning options return, such as Daniel Hudson and Tanner Rainey, the Nationals might look into free agency to add a proven arm to soak up middle-relief innings.


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