MLB Baseball

AP source: Nats, lefty reliever Sipp agree to $1.25M deal

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

By HOWARD FENDRICH

AP Sports Writer

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) The Washington Nationals are counting on Tony Sipp to give them something they think will matter a lot in the NL East: a lefty reliever to go after lefty hitters in late-game situations.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Wednesday that the team and Sipp agreed in principle to a deal, pending the successful completion of a physical exam.

Rizzo did not disclose the financial terms, but a person familiar with the contract told The Associated Press that Sipp is guaranteed $1.25 million and the agreement includes a mutual option for 2020. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because nothing had been finalized.

"We think he's a really good value for us. It was time for him to sign, and we have opportunities for him. This is one of the places he wanted to be, because he's got a chance to win and he's been used to that," Rizzo said. "He was a guy that we were monitoring."

Sipp would get a $1 million salary this year, and the contract includes a $2.5 million mutual option for next year, with a $250,000 buyout. There are not any performance bonuses.

This move gives Washington's rebuilt bullpen someone to use in a key spot against left-handed batters - such as Bryce Harper, the former Nationals slugger who joined the NL East rival Philadelphia Phillies as a free agent for $330 million over 13 seasons. Sipp and Harper have never faced each other.

Other key lefty bats in the division include Freddie Freeman with the Atlanta Braves, and Robinson Cano with the New York Mets.

"You can't have enough lefty specialists," Washington manager Dave Martinez said. "You really can't."

The Nationals were in the market for a left-handed reliever after releasing Sammy Solis last weekend.

Solis agreed to a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres.

"They really want that lefty matchup guy and I think you look around our division now and each team really has at least one or two big (lefty hitters)," Nationals closer Sean Doolittle said. "Unfortunately, he is going to have his work cut out for him. Welcome to the NL East. Here's Harp. Here's Freeman. Here's Cano."

The 35-year-old Sipp is entering his 11th season.

He has a 25-20 career record with a 3.67 ERA and 513 strikeouts in 482 2/3 innings spanning 580 appearances for Cleveland, Arizona and Houston, all in relief.

Last season with the Astros, Sipp was 3-1 with a 1.86 ERA, holding lefty hitters to a .191 batting average. That was his final season of an $18 million, three-year contract.

"I think that he balances our bullpen out. He's had success in big moments. He's been in the playoffs and had success. I think that, not only with our division but just in general, I think he's a sound relief pitcher," Rizzo said. "And he gets righties out, too. Let's not forget that."

Notes: The Nationals optioned RHP Austin Adams to Triple-A Fresno and reassigned five players to minor league camp: INF Luis Garcia, INF-OF Brandon Snyder, INF Matt Reynolds, C Taylor Gushue, INF Jacob Wilson.

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More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Updated March 13, 2019

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