Washington Nationals Free Agent Profile: Santiago Casilla

If the Washington Nationals can’t land a big time closer, is Santiago Casilla a good fallback option?

This offseason, the Washington Nationals need to go out and add a closer to help sure up the ninth inning. The big three closers on the free agent market are Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and former Nats reliever Mark Melancon. If the price becomes too big for all three of their relievers, they will need to find a fallback option.

One of those options might be former Giants reliever Santiago Casilla. Casilla had a rough season for the Giants last year as he blew nine saves and had a 3.57 ERA in 62 games. While Casilla has saved 69 games in the last two seasons, the 36-year-old right-hander has blown a combined 15 saves.

In 2016, Casilla was allowing too many fly balls to opposing hitters. According to Fangraphs, his fly ball percentage of 36.1% was the highest he has had since he was with the Oakland Athletics in 2008 (36.5%). Plus, his groundball percentage has been under 50% each of the last two years.

While Casilla had an issue with blowing saves last season, his 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings were the highest of his career and his 2.9 walks per nine was the second lowest of his carer (2.3 in 2014). But, while Casilla is throwing strikes, teams have hit over .230 the last two seasons against him (.177 in 2014).

As far as his fastball velocity goes, the average speed on his heater has gone down from 94.3 in 2014 to 93.6 this past season (courtesy of Fangraphs). With the decrease in his fastball velocity, he has used more of his slider and his breaking ball and he also throws a changeup.

With Casilla heading into his age 37 season, he is not going to be one of those relievers who is going to get a lot of money. When MLB Trade Rumors gave their free agent projections, they gave Casilla a two-year, $12 million contract.

Casilla wouldn’t be a terrible backup plan for the Washington Nationals if all three closers sign somewhere else or if Wade Davis isn’t traded from Kansas City. But, I think the Nats have better options internally with Koda Glover, Blake Treinen, or Shawn Kelley (filled in for Jonathan Papelbon last season).

It wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Washington Nationals to give Casilla a one-year deal, but the former Giants reliever should not be the Nats first choice to help improve their bullpen.

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