Step 3: Nail Their Free Agency Moves
So many contenders over the years have had their windows snapped shut because their off-season moves didn’t pan out. The Chicago Cubs come to mind. In 2015, the Cubs reached the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The following off-season, Chicago splurged in free agency, signing John Lackey, Jayson Heyward, and Ben Zobrist. The trio joined their emerging homegrown talent and the Cubs won the World Series in 2016.
Since then, the Cubs continued to go all in to capitalize on their young core signing both Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood, and trading for Jose Quintana. Heyward’s contract become an albatross, while Darvish suffered multiple injuries. Chatwood struggled out of the gate and the Cubs were unable to fill out their roster holes due to money being tight. This past trade deadline, the Cubs officially started a full-blown rebuild, trading away the majority of their 2016 World Series contributors.
Luckily for Washington, they have plenty of money coming off the books and the upcoming free-agent market is littered with high-end talent. Mike Rizzo needs to be wise on how he wants to fill out his roster holes.
Entering the 2021 season, the Giants signed veterans Alex Wood and Anthony DeScalfani to one-year deals, while Kevin Gausman accepted the qualifying offer. They also traded for LaMonte Wade Jr., who at the time was an unknown outfielder for the Twins.
The trio of Wood (3.83 ERA, 3.48 FIP), DeSclafani (3.17 ERA, 3.62 FIP), and Gausman completely revamped the rotation. Gausman in particular turned into an ace, going 16-6, with a 2.81 ERA, 227 strikeouts, and a 3.00 FIP in 33 starts. Taking advantage of the extended playing time, Wade hit .253, with 18 homers, 56 RBIs, and an OPS of .808. He became arguably the most clutch player on the team when it came to late-inning situations.
For Washington, they are still a year or two away from being ready to splurge and instead should set their eyes on B and C tier free agents. Similar to the Giants, bolstering their pitching, in this case, the bullpen is a must. Players such as Craig Stammen, Daniel Hudson, and Aaron Loup should be a the top of Washington’s list.