Free agency is off and running and the Washington Nationals plan to be spenders. MLB Trade Rumors has two top free agents listed as good fits in DC.
With free agency under way, we expect the Washington Nationals to spend some money and shore up the team for another playoff run. While there are glaring needs, whether or not the Nationals will spend on a big-name free agent, or cobble something together with lesser known guys remains to be seen.
There has been speculation out there (mostly from Nationals fans, myself included) the Nationals are going to walk away from the offseason with either Marcell Ozuna or George Springer in tow. MLB Trade Rumors seems to agree.
MLB Trade Rumors recently released their Top 50 free agent predictions and the Nationals had two players listed. While this publication is by no means on the mark all the time, they usually do a good job of coming close on the money aspect of the contracts. Here are the predictions MLB Trade Rumors had for the Nationals:
Marcell Ozuna- 4 YRS/$72M
Could this be the reason Juan Soto switched from left field to right field towards the end of the year? Adding Ozuna would definitely add a boost to the lineup offensively. Ozuna led the league in home runs, runs batted in, and hit .338 while doing so. He added two home runs in the National League Championship Series, which the Braves eventually lost to the Dodgers.
Ozuna was paid $18M this past season and we saw the statistics he put up. The financial limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could play a role in Ozuna not getting more total dollars. Jim Bowden of The Athletic also thinks Ozuna will garner $18M a year, though has him signing at 3 YR/$54M.
The Nationals need a power bat in the middle of the lineup and with the departure of Adam Eaton to free agency, need an outfielder as well. This appears to be a good fit for both Ozuna and the Nationals.
Taijuan Walker- 2 YRS/$16M
The Nationals do have a need for a back of the rotation starter. Anibal Sanchez had his option declined, Austin Voth and Erick Fedde were unreliable in 2020, and Joe Ross will be coming off a year he didn’t face live hitting. With the announcement Robbie Ray re-signed with the Toronto Blue Jays at $8M for one year, the market will begin to take shape.
Taijuan Walker is a former first round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners who recently fell on hard times. He had a good three year run from 2015-2017, then was bitten by the injury bug. While playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Walker made just four starts over a two year span. After a successful Tommy John surgery, Walker re-signed with team who drafted him and pitched well enough to garner trade interest at this year’s deadline.
He was dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays and made six starts to end the regular season, going 2-1 with a 1.37 earned run average.
General manager Mike Rizzo does not shy away from Tommy John reclamation projects, though $16M seems like a hefty number for a guy with little guarantees. I am also not sure the Nationals are looking for a two year commitment. Even with Max Scherzer set to hit free agency in 2021, Jackson Rutledge is projected to appear in the majors in 2022 and could work his way into the rotation, saving the team a few dollars in cash strapped times.