Nationals may finally be reaping rewards of 2018 Brandon Kintzler trade

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The Nationals may finally be reaping the rewards of a little publicized trade made three years ago after selecting the contract of right-handed pitcher Jhon Romero from Triple-A Rochester on Friday.

Romero, 26, was acquired in a July 31, 2018 trade for right-handed reliever Brandon Kintzler, during a season in which the Nationals were projected to be World Series contenders but wound up falling well short of those expectations.

Kintzler was 1-2 with a 3.59 ERA, 15 holds and two saves in five opportunities (45 appearances, 42.2 innings pitched) at the time. He went on to make 25 appearances for the Cubs that regular season, going 2-1 with a 7.00 ERA while successfully holding four games. The Cubs were eliminated by the Rockies in the NL Wild Card round in 2018, using nine pitchers in the game but never went to Kintzler because they left him off of their postseason roster.

At the time of the trade, the Nationals were 53-53 and ranked third in the NL East, trailing the division-leading Phillies by 5.5 games. They also trailed the Rockies, Dodgers and Braves by five games for the second Wild Card spot in the National League with two months to play. The Braves ultimately won the division that year (90-72) while the Nats finished second (82-80). The Cubs (95-68) and Rockies (91-72) earned the two Wild Card spots.

It was a controversial decision for the Nationals to sell at this time, obviously not so much in retrospect considering they won the World Series the following year. This was the final season that Bryce Harper was under team control (before signing with the Phillies in the offseason). In addition to Kintzler, they ended up trading Daniel Murphy, Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Madson, Matt Adams and former first-round pick Brian Goodwin, along with designating reliever Shawn Kelley for assignment (later signed with Oakland).

Romero has been a slow burn but has come on strong in 2021, pitching to a 2-4 record with a 2.62 ERA in 38 appearances across Double-A Harrisburg (33 games) and Triple-A Rochester (5 games) this season. He recorded two saves while striking out 69 batters against only 11 walks — with a .237 batting average against in 55 innings pitched — in that time, while tossing more than one inning in 18 of his 38 appearances.

Since being assigned to Triple-A on Sept. 4, Romero has appeared in five games (7.1 IP), posting a 1.23 ERA with 11 strikeouts, one walk and five hits allowed (.192 batting average against). He was promoted after going 2-4 with a 2.83 ERA and two saves in 33 appearances (47.2 IP) in Double-A in 2021.

Romero, who was originally signed by the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent (Colombia) in May 2015, has posted a 2.84 ERA with 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 119 career outings across six minor league seasons.

The Nationals also placed outfielder Yadiel Hernandez on the paternity list and designated 25-year-old catcher Jakson Reetz, a third-round pick by Washington in 2014, for assignment. Reetz made his Major League debut for the Nationals earlier this season, going 1-for-2 with a double and one run scored in two games.