With the Nationals sitting at 18-29, it is safe to assume the team will miss the playoffs. However, a strong off-season will help the Nationals get back to the playoffs and the 2021 free agency class has enough talent to do just that.
Michael Brantley. J.T. Realmuto. Jake Odorizzi. Nelson Cruz. Marcus Stroman. Masahiro Tanaka. Marcell Ozuna. George Springer. These are just a few free agents the Nationals should target once free agency starts. With major holes at first, rightfield, and the back of the rotation, Washington has many options come this offseason. The team also has a projected $47.7 million to work with, assuming the team decides to stay under the luxury tax. While splurging for a player such as J.T. Realmuto sounds nice, the front office should spread the money evenly in order to have an overall deeper team. Throughout this week, I will be exploring which free agents the Nationals should target in order to fix the team’s biggest holes. First up is the outfield.
Current 2020 Stats: .253 BA, 13 HRs, 28 RBIs, .875 OPS, 139 wRC+
Why He Fits: Washington needs some pop in the lineup and Springer provides just that. From 2016-2019 Springer averaged 31 homers and 83 RBIs. The Nationals offense ranks 22nd in homers and 15th in RBIs. Springer’s bat would be a huge boost to the offense.
In his career, the 2017 World Series MVP has 42 outfield assists, 23 defensie runs saved, and a dWAR of 1.1. This season he has 0 outfield assists, a DRS of 1, and a dWAR of .1. Despite his dip in defense, Springer still provides plenty of upside.
While Springer’s stats are down, this might lower his contract demands and allow for the Nationals to sign him.
Why He Wouldn’t: From 2017-2019, Springer was one of the most dangerous centerfielders in the game, but after the Astro’s sign-stealing scandal was revealed, it is unclear if Springer production was a product of his ability or from cheating. He is in the midst of a down year at the plate, which could raise some concerns about his production moving forward.
Current 2020 Stats: .311 BA, 4 HRs, 21 RBIs, .875 OPS, 141 wRC+
Why He Fits: At the age of 33, Brantley is still a force at the plate and this year is no different. His consistent bat would be a welcomed addition to an offense that has failed to replace Anthony Rendon’s production. With Adam Eaton’s future with the Nats up in the air, Brantley could fill his spot as the number two hitter and take over in right. Since arriving in Houston in 2019, Brantley has five outfield assists and 14 defensive runs saved.
Why He Wouldn’t: The problem with Brantley is he struggles to stay healthy. A 33-year-old with an injury history is a major red flag.
Current 2020 Stats: .316 BA, 15 HRs, 48 RBIs, .996 OPS, 161 wRC+
Why He Fits: After breaking out in 2017, Ozuna never built on his success, taking a step back over his two years in St. Louis. Now that he is in Atlanta, Ozuna looks like his 2017 self and in the midst of a MVP caliber season. In 53 games this season, he has 15 homers, which would put him on pace for 45.8 if this was a regular 162 game season. Ozuna would provide plenty of protection for Juan Soto in the lineup.
Why He Wouldn’t: While Ozuna’s bat would be a huge upgrade for the Nationals offense, he is a defensive liability. This season he has a -.5 dWAR and -2 defensive runs saved. With the Nationals current right fielder Adam Eaton’s defense already quickly deteriorating, replacing him with another subpar defensive outfielder isn’t the smartest decision.
It is unclear if the NL will keep the universal DH, but if the rule sticks, then Washington should ask for his services. Ozuna is having a monster year with the Braves, which is undoubtedly rising his asking price. With Washington only having 47 million to deal with, Ozuna is quickly pricing himself out of D.C.