When asked to explain the move on Sunday morning, General Manager Mike Rizzo said in a statement, “He has been released for staffing reasons.” A team spokeswoman said the Nationals could not expand that. When Jeffress was reached by text on Sunday afternoon, he did not reveal how the team explained their decision to him. He said the reason the team gave him was “not true” – without clarifying what that reason was – and expressed frustration with the way the situation was handled.
The right-hander didn’t get a guaranteed contract this winter, despite having had a strong year with the Chicago Cubs. Jeffress, 33, finished with an ERA of 1.54 in 23⅓ innings and scored eight saves. Now, less than a month before the regular season, he is back among the many experienced helpers who are still looking for a club. He didn’t appear in an exhibition for Washington until she let him go.
The Nationals signed Jeffress to deepen the back end of their bullpen. They did so with knowledge of Jeffress’ history of off-field problems.
Since his 2006 draft – from Halifax County High in South Boston, Virginia – Jeffress has received two criminal charges and two MLB-mandated suspensions. He was suspended in both 2007 and 2009 for violating the minor league baseball program for substance abuse (non-performance enhancing substances). In January 2012, while playing for the Kansas City Royals, he was arrested for domestic violence for disorderly behavior, assault and criminal harm.
After the arrest, Jeffress described the incident as an argument with his girlfriend. She later dropped the charges, and he was sentenced to 20 hours of community service. Then, in 2016, while with the Milwaukee Brewers, he pleaded guilty to driving drunk.
After the Nationals added Jeffress on February 22nd, manager Dave Martinez spoke about Jeffress’ character and “sperm” on the hill. However, Martinez was not asked to specifically delve into Jeffress’ previous suspensions, domestic violence charges, or DWI arrest, or what the team’s background check looked like. Martinez spoke to reporters on Sunday morning before Jeffress’ release became public.
However, about 45 minutes later, Jeffress tweeted that his former agent “only ruined my life. I was nothing more than a great friend and customer to him. For over 10 years. Thank you buddy. “Later that afternoon, Jeffress tweeted,” I’m not what they say, I’m what God says! I don’t deserve this false negativity! “
He’s now represented by Roc Nation Sports, and his current agent didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment on Sunday. His former agent declined to comment on Jeffress’ first tweet about him.