In Bruney, Washington picks up a power arm who could pitch in the late innings. The two clubs have been talking about Bruney for several weeks, and the talks gained momentum as they got closer to the Winter Meetings. In fact, the teams agreed to a deal on Sunday.
"I'm happy with the trade," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "I've seen him pitch a couple of times. He is a power arm who could [be at the end of our bullpen]. We feel we need a little help out there. He has the experience and has a good arm."
Bruney, who was drafted by Rizzo in the 2000 First-Year Player Draft when both were with the D-backs, was 5-0 with a 3.92 ERA in 44 appearances as New York's setup man in '09. The hard-throwing right-hander was left off the Yankees' playoff roster in the first two rounds before being activated for the World Series against the Phillies.
"We feel he makes us a better club," Rizzo said. "He strengthens one of our weak points in the bullpen."
Bruney also spent two stints on the disabled list. From April 25-May 18, Bruney landed on the DL because of a flexor muscle strain in his right elbow. He had the same problem in late May and had to be put on the DL for almost a month.
Asked if he was concerned about Bruney's health, Riggleman said, "I don't know if concerned is the right word. In today's world, it's hard to find somebody who hasn't had something. They all had some tenderness or DL time. Sometimes it's almost precautionary, but still, it goes in the book as DL. If you only made a move on someone who has never been on the DL, it would be hard to find people."
Said Rizzo: "We did our due diligence on Bruney. We got a complete go-ahead from our medical people. In the last couple of months, he hasn't had anything serious. He finished the season very strong."
Bruney most likely will serve as a setup man for the Nationals. There is a possibility he could share the closer's role with Mike MacDougal, who saved 17 games for Washington this past season.
Bruney has experience in that ninth-inning role, saving 12 games and striking out 51 batters in 46 innings for Arizona in 2005. However, he had a 7.43 ERA.
"As we sit here right now, it's undetermined who could be our closer, so I think that is a healthy situation to have some competition out there," Riggleman said. "Maybe the hot hand takes it. Who knows? By the time we leave these meetings in Indianapolis, maybe something happens where we identify one person who is going to be a closer. This gives us another option to look at through Spring Training. We'll see how it evolves. This is a pretty nice piece to the puzzle."
To make room for Bruney, the Nationals released reliever Saul Rivera, who had his worst year with Washington this past season. The right-hander pitched in 30 games and had a 6.10 ERA. There was a time when Rivera was a workhorse for the Nationals, averaging 80 appearances per season in 2007-08.
Riggleman hasn't ruled out Rivera coming back.
"This doesn't close the door on Rivera," Riggleman said. "He going to be looking to sign with somebody, and it could be with us."
Rizzo said he is trying to acquire more relief pitching.
"We are always trying to get better," Rizzo said. "We certainly don't think we're where we need to be right now. The bullpen was a point of emphasis. We are still looking."