Top Free Agent Signings in Washington Nationals History
By Max Rayman
Who are some of the top free-agent signings in Nationals history?
From 2010-2019 the Washington Nationals ranked fourth in regular-season wins with 879. The only teams that had more wins, were the St. Louis Cardinals (899), Los Angeles Dodgers (919), and New York Yankees (921). That is some pretty good company. Since moving from Montreal, the Nationals built their team mostly on homegrown talent. The team drafted notable players such as Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Jordan Zimmerman, and Anthony Rendon, who all played a key part in turning the Franchise into one of the most winningest teams of the last decade. However, it takes more than hitting on draft picks to build a winning franchise. GM Mike Rizzo has made some key trades and shrewd moves on the free-agent market since taking over the position in 2009. Today we will be looking at some of the top free-agent signings in Washington Nationals history. To be put on the list, we are only looking at Nationals history (sorry Expos fans) and the player had to play a minimum of one full season with the Nats.
Signed to a seven-year deal worth $210 million in 2015, Max Scherzer is hands down the best free-agent signing in Nationals history. However, not everyone at the time saw it that way. Scherzer was voted the worst free-agent signing in 2015 as well as the worst contract. However, Scherzer and the Nats got the last laugh. Since signing with the Nats, Scherzer has gone 70-39, with a 2.74 ERA, and 1,371 strikeouts. He immediately took over as ace of the pitching staff and helped the team win division titles in 2016 and 2017. In 2019, he played a huge part in the Nationals winning their first-ever World Series title.
In his five years in the nation’s capital, he has racked up the accolades. Since coming to D.C. Scherzer has been named to five All-Star teams, won two Cy Youngs (2016, 2017), led the league in wins (2016, 2018), led the NL in strikeouts (2016-2018), thrown two No-Hitters (both in 2015), tied the record for most strikeouts in a nine-inning game (2016), and tied the record for five seasons in a row with 250+ strikeouts (2013-2018).
Drafted by the New York Mets in 2006, Daniel Murphy played with them from 2008-2015. After the 2015 season, he declined the Mets qualifying offer and then signed with the Nationals on a three-year deal. With the Mets, Murphy was a steady contributor, but with the Nats, Murphy turned into an offensive star. In two and a half years in the nation’s capital, Murphy hit .329, with 54 homers, and 226 RBIs. He was also named to two All-Star teams and won two Silver Sluggers. To put things in perspective, in seven seasons with the Mets, Murphy hit .288, with 62 homers, and 402 RBIs.
In his first year with the Nats, Murphy helped lead the team back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014, as they won the division for the third time since 2012. Murphy finished the season second in NL MVP voting. With the Nats, Murphy reinvented his swing, changing his launch angle. This made him a more dangerous hitter and it was all thanks to his hitting coach from his days on the Mets, Kevin Long. Murphy then went on to help players on the Nats reinvent their swings and it paid dividends. The Nats offense became a juggernaut in 2016 and 2017. Despite Murphy’s tenure with the organization ending early, he became a fixture of the team.
Love him or hate him, Jayson Werth was pivotal in changing the atmosphere in the clubhouse. He signed a seven-year deal worth 126 million in December of 2010 and helped lead the Nats to the playoffs for the first time since they moved from Montreal. In seven years with the team, Werth hit .263, with 109 homers, and 393 RBIs.
Despite not living up to his contract, Werth was key in helping his young teammates mature. He took young phenom, Bryce Harper, under his wing, and showed him the ropes.
When Werth signed with the Nats, they were one of the worst teams in the league, having had a losing record from 2006-2010. Big-name players stayed away from D.C. due to the fact that they weren’t a winning club. But when Werth came to the club, he showed that the Nats were ready to take the next step. Soon after, top free agents starting looking at D.C. with a different perspective, and this was all thanks to Werth. After Werth retired from baseball, the Nats named him to their Ring of Honor. That’s just how much he meant to the team.
Despite only playing one season for the team, thus far, Patrick Corbin deserves to be on this list. After signing a six-year contract worth 140 million in December 2018, Corbin immediately started to impress. He became the missing piece for the Nationals pitching staff and finished the season 14-7, with a 3.25 ERA, and 238 strikeouts. Corbin teamed up with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Anibal Sanchez to form the best pitching staff in baseball.
Due to the Nationals shaky bullpen, Corbin was a do it all pitcher in the team’s World Series run. He started three games and made five relief appearances. 2019 was Corbin’s first time pitching in the playoffs and it showed. He finished the team’s World Series run 2-3, with a 5.79 ERA, and 36 strikeouts in 23.1 innings. However, despite what the numbers show, Corbin, delivered when it mattered most. After being the losing pitcher in Game one of the NLDS, and giving up six runs when he came out of the bullpen in game three, Corbin put on a show in game five. With his team down 3-1 in the seventh inning, Corbin came in with two outs and no one on. He threw a scoreless 1.1 innings, striking out three. He was able to keep the Dodgers at bay as the Nats offense got to work. Corbin again came through in the clutch and this time it was in Game seven of the World Series. With the Nats once again losing, this time 2-0 in the sixth, Corbin came in and threw three perfect innings, with three strikeouts. When it mattered most, Corbin was able to keep opposing teams in check in order to give his offense a chance at coming back.
In the playoffs, Corbin showed his versatility, and gave Nats fans a glimpse of what is to come over the remaining five years of his contract.