Who is an additional piece to the puzzle, acquired via free agency or trade?
The Nationals are in the market for a catcher and there are not many good catchers on the market. I do not feel J.T. Realmuto will get the money he wants, and for value reasons I do not think the Nationals should even chase him. The next best catcher on the market appears to be James McCann. After a handful of subpar years with the Detroit Tigers, McCann spent the last two seasons boosting his batting average and hitting home runs on the south side of Chicago.
Then there is a huge drop-off with the remaining free agents. If the Nationals are going to upgrade in the catching department they will need to do it via the trade. The New York Yankees are impatient with Gary Sanchez and currently listening to offers.
Sanchez sometimes goes through stretches at the plate where he looks pitiful. He has tremendous power though. Sanchez is a two-time All-Star who has hit over thirty home runs twice in his career. He made $5M last year and has multiple years of team control left.
The Nationals would have to get creative, as they do not have much in the system to trade. The Yankees may just be frustrated enough with Sanchez they are willing to part with him for less than the best prospects the Nats have to offer.
Josh Bell. The 28-year-old first baseman has two years left on his contract and is coming off of a disappointing 2020 campaign. The Pittsburgh Pirates have entered a full rebuild and their timetable doesn’t match up with Bell’s prime.
In 2019, Bell’s stock was at an all-time high. He hit .277, with 37 homers, 116 RBIs, and an OPS of .936. Then 2020 happened. Bell fell crashing back to earth, hitting .226, with eight homers, 22 RBIs, and an OPS of .669.
With his trade stock taking a major hit, the Pirates might be inclined to hold onto him. After all, there is no point in trading a player if you aren’t getting ample talent in return. But from Washington’s perspective, now is a perfect time to gauge the Pirates on their asking price.
A change of scenery could lead Bell to having a solid bounce back year. He would be following the recent trend of Pirates players who were traded and have excelled since. Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow, and Auston Meadows come to mind. Bell would offer the protection needed for Juan Soto and has shown in the past that he can slug with the best of them. While 2019 was his ceiling, Bell has shown he has more in the tank.
Bell is a liabilty defensively and as I stated earlier, the Pirates could hang onto him for another season. If that’s the case, Mitch Moreland is the answer. He is a lefty power bat who is a Gold Glover. While he is no longer the defender he once was, he posted positive defensive metrics in 2020 (1 DRS and a .1 UZR). Morland could platoon with Ryan Zimmerman (if he comes back) and can even DH if the NL decides to keep that rule intact. Last year with the Red Sox and Padres, Moreland hit .265, with 10 homers, 29 RBIs, an OPS of .894, and a wRC+ of 135. While he is the cheaper option, he is 35 and father time runs supreme.