Washington Nationals: What’s Next In D.C.?
By Frank Ellis
The Washington Nationals recent sell-off has not only added a bunch of future pieces, but it also brought plenty of possible directions this team could go in the next few years.
Mike Rizzo could legitimately decide to field an entire team of players that are already under team control in 2022. This would be one of the youngest teams in baseball and has its fair share of upside. I doubt this is what Mike Rizzo decides to field on Opening Day and really that is not the most interesting part. That comes when realize that this roster will only cost around $101,000,000 give or take a few million based on arbitration cases and what the minimum salary will actually be for 2022.
Due to the looming CBA negotiations, we don’t know if there will be a luxury tax number in 2022, but based on the 2021 number we would be about $100,000,000 below any sort of tax number. That is a lot of money… how will Rizzo use it or will he even use it immediately?
Personally, I don’t think the Nationals will spend much of that money in the 2021-2022 offseason. It just does not make sense and in his most recent interview, Rizzo said that his plan involves signing impactful players when the young promising prospects are ready to contribute as well. I would expect the Nationals to sign some good veterans on one-year deals during this coming offseason and to let the young guns get ready. That does not mean the 2021 team couldn’t compete but after next year it could get real interesting though.
2023 and Beyond
If the baseball gods are nice and this team is blessed with some reasonable health we could go into 2023 with a starting rotation of Josiah Gray, Cade Cavalli, Jackson Rutledge, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin. Also by then Keibert Ruiz and Luis Garcia have the potential to be a solid combo next to Juan Soto in the offense. The bullpen could also be pretty solid at this point if just a few of the young bullpen pieces work out. This might just be the time Mike Rizzo strikes and uses some of that available money.
Players like Byron Buxton, Joey Gallo, Jose Berrios, and Trea Turner (wouldn’t that be funny) are all free agents in that offseason. Prospects like Brady House, Andry Lara, Armando Cruz, and Aldo Ramirez could also be closer to being ready as well. There is no denying that the pitching from the rotation to the pen has the potential to be great.
The pitching is really the exciting part. Cade Cavalli currently leads all of minor league baseball in strikeouts and yet Josiah Gray leapfrogged him on some prospect rankings. In an ideal world Gray, Cavalli and Rutledge could fill in the 1 through 3 in the rotation in some order. Then you still have Corbin and Strasburg that can fill in somewhere in that rotation as well. A lot of this depends on the development of the young players in this organization and they will need to play their roles.
Once 2023 comes around Mike Rizzo might be ready to add gasoline to a fire he started building this year. This is the clear pathway to competition that we did not have prior to these trades. Obviously, baseball will be baseball and a lot of things need to go right for this to work but at least now there is a very clear path that hopefully ends with a parade.