The Washington Nationals are five games away from potentially clinching the National League East title and have already assured themselves of their first postseason berth since moving South.
But, let’s skip all of that and take a look at free agency decisions the Nationals will have to make. At my count, there are
five four potential Nationals heading to free agency (counting players with options but not arbitration eligible or automatic renewals). Those players are Edwin Jackson, Adam LaRoche, Chien-Ming Wang, Chad Tracy and Sean Burnett.
2012 Salary: $11 million, 28 years old
When the Nationals signed Jackson for one year, it was a move that was lauded by most baseball analysts because they bought low on a player that was surely positioning himself for a future multi-year deal. He is almost surely going to hit the open market, and the Nationals will probably try and re-sign him to go along with their star-studded rotation that will include Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez. Jackson would be a pretty expensive #4 starter to be investing long term in, but if the Nationals can sign him at a decent price, that would help them have a strong rotation from top to bottom along with (probably) Ross Detwiler. His season may have not raised his value like he would have liked but he still has the postseason and should still make some significant money this offseason.
2012 Salary: $8 million, 32 years old
LaRoche might be the biggest surprise of all surprises the Nationals have had this season. After an injury plagued 2011 season, LaRoche came back with a bang in 2012. But this wasn’t a 2010 bang. This was a bang that hasn’t been heard from LaRoche since 2006 when he was an up-and-coming 26 year old in his prime. Now, the Nationals and LaRoche have a mutual option for 2013 that will see him get paid $10 million for a final year or be bought out for $1 million. I think that the most likely scenario is LaRoche staying and the Nationals and him agreeing on an extension for a second or maybe even third year. LaRoche will want to cash in on his great season and the Nationals won’t want to have to try and replace him.
2012 Salary: $4 million, 32 years old
Wang is a great story. After being out of baseball for so long, he wasn’t supposed to be successful and make it back to the Majors. He has, and while he may still have some life in him at the Major League level, I don’t see him and the Nationals extending their time together unless there is a bonus-laden contract. Wang pitched well in his last start but will be hard pressed to make the playoff roster and that might have been his last big hurrah in a Nationals uniform.
2012 Salary: $2.5 million, 30 years old
Burnett has been very good in the Nationals bullpen and he has an option for $3.5 million with a 250k buyout. I think the two sides will extend the option and I would be very surprised if Burnett does not stay with the Nationals. However, as good as Burnett was, he may want to get some security.
2012 Salary: $750,000, 32 years old
Tracy has been a fan favourite and a key guy off the bench for the Nationals this season. The captain of the ‘Goon Squad’, what F.P Santangelo called the Nationals bench players and pinch hitters, Tracy is the kind of guy that will have demand on the open market, but he’s the kind of guy that needs a niche and it appears he has found that as the first left-handed bat off the bench for a contending team which the Nationals now are.
As a couple of the comments point out, Tracy was already signed to an extension. That’s what I get for going off of an outdated contract list.