The Nationals agreed to sign Petit for one year and $3 million on a deal that includes a 2017 club option. The Blue Jays expressed a willingness to offer two years plus a 2018 option at competitive prices. Other teams, including the Texas Rangers, were also in the mix for Petit, who became a free agent when he was non-tendered by the San Francisco Giants earlier this month.
Petit pitched well out of the bullpen in 2015, posting a 3.67 ERA with 59 strikeouts and 15 walks in 76 innings. In four years with the Giants, the 31-year-old had a 3.66 ERA with 240 strikeouts in 245.2 innings.
Petit has some experience as a starter, which appealed to some of his free agent suitors. He even came within one out of a perfect game in 2013 as a member of the Giants.
Petit had been projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $2.4 million in 2016, his final season of arbitration eligibility. Instead of trading him the Giants made him a free agent at which point the Nationals and Blue Jays started showing interest.
The Blue Jays have bolstered their rotation, but they continue seeking pitching reinforcements, particularly in the bullpen.
“That’s important,” manager John Gibbons said at the Winter Meetings. “You can have great starting pitching and they can do their jobs, but if it gets away late every night, that’s never good either. That’s probably more of a focus than anything.”
Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro says the Blue Jays have been pursuing mid-range relievers. It’s risky to invest big in bullpen arms, as the Blue Jays found out a decade ago with the B.J. Ryan contract.
“It’s such a tough market to wade into and allocate so many of your resources to, but we know we’ve got to find some alternatives and we know we’ve got to play in that market,” Shapiro said. “To play in the upper ends of that market it’s a dangerous place to play. You’d better have a lot of flexibility and your threshold for risk had better be very high.”
In the case of Petit, the Blue Jays identified a worthwhile target and were prepared to make a competitive offer. Now they must turn their focus to the capable relievers remaining on the market. Even after a busy week in Nashville, they’ll have plenty of choice.