Nationals right-hander Will Harris underwent a procedure to remove a small blood clot from his right arm, manager Dave Martinez announced this afternoon (Twitter link via Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post). There’s no timetable for a return to the mound just yet, though Martinez thankfully noted that Harris is “moving in the right direction” and that the procedure went well.
Suffice it to say, it looks quite unlikely that the Nats will have Harris available to them to begin the season. If the 36-year-old righty does indeed begin the season on the injured list, the Nats will turn to Tanner Rainey and Daniel Hudson as the primary right-handed setup options for likely closer Brad Hand.
Harris is entering the second season of a three-year, $24MM contract he inked with the Nats in the 2019-20 offseason. The veteran righty turned in a sharp 3.06 ERA in 17 2/3 frames last year, though he also had some red flags in his stat line. While his 10.7 K/9 mark was the second-highest of his career, that’s a misleading stat, as Harris’ overall strikeout percentage (25 percent) was his lowest mark since 2015. The discrepancy is due to a considerable increase in both his walk rate (6.1 percent in 2019; 10.7 percent in 2020) and his opponents’ batting average (.195 in ’19; .280 in ’20). The velocity on Harris’ cutter also fell to a career-low 91.0 mph.
That said, last year was obviously anything but a typical season, and Harris was a rock-solid setup man for the Astros in the five prior seasons. From 2015-19, Harris gave the ’Stros 297 innings of 2.36 ERA ball, striking out 27 percent of his opponents against a tidy 6.2 percent walk rate. His 52.5 percent ground-ball rate in that time was also well above the league average. The Nats owe Harris $8MM both this year and next year — his age-36 and age-37 seasons.