Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training this week, but that does not mean the Washington Nationals are done shopping. Could they make another move?
The Washington Nationals have been known to make a splash in the offseason, but they have not made many notable transactions this winter, at least not yet. Despite the fact that pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Spring Training this week, several high-profile free agents remain unsigned.
The fact that so many of the game’s top players are without a team this deep into the offseason is unprecedented. What would not be unprecedented, however, is the Nats signing a free agent in the final stages of the offseason.
Last year, despite already having Derek Norris and Jose Lobaton on the roster, the Nats signed Matt Wieters on February 24. This signing, although unorthodox, was not shocking since Wieters is represented by Scott Boras.
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Now, several of the high-profile players remaining on the market are Boras clients. The Nats do not necessarily need to make any moves, but they could certainly sign someone if the price is right.
The players association is setting up a Spring Training camp for unsigned free agents, which will serve as a temporary solution, but players are going to want to sign with a team as soon as possible. They need to get acclimated to their new environment and establish relationships with their new teammates and coaches, among other preseason tasks. The longer they wait to sign, the less time they have to prepare for the season.
If free agents are willing to sign a lesser contract than what they originally desired, the Nats could become players.
Looking through the Nats’ roster, they could theoretically add a starting pitcher, reliever, or catcher. Fortunately for them, each of these needs are represented in what remains of this year’s free agent class.
If the Nats wanted to add a starting pitcher, Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, and Alex Cobb are a few solid options. Although they each have a few red flags, Arrieta especially, they could be solid contributors.
A.J. Cole should be able to hold things down as the fifth starter, but the Nats could sign a starter if the price is right and they do not feel comfortable with Cole.
Looking at the relief market, there are a few possible fits. Greg Holland, Tony Watson, Francisco Liriano, and Tyler Clippard could all be solid additions to the Nats’ already strong bullpen. While there are some options available, the Nats would be perfectly fine entering the season with their current bullpen.
The Nats’ biggest hole is behind the plate, which is also the least exciting free agent market. Jonathan Lucroy is the only decent free agent catcher, and he is far from being a great option. If the Nats want to add a catcher, they should do so via trade.
The Nats currently have an almost identical roster from 2017, when they had the second-best record in the National League. They are a playoff team as things currently stand, but Mike Rizzo is always looking for ways to improve. Although they do not need anything, never rule the Nats out from making a move.