It’s been almost two months since MLB’s lockout began, and the two sides have just recently begun inching towards a new deal. While an agreement isn’t anywhere near close to fruition, it is a breath of fresh air to see the two sides talking for more than ten minutes at a time. Now that the two sides have begun passing proposals back and forth, it is only fair to once again begin wonder about what the Nationals need to address before the 2022 season kicks off.
In particular, the front office needs to answer three important questions before moving forward.
Will Washington Splurge On A Power Bat?
The Nationals offense is led by the second-best hitter in baseball in Juan Soto. Only 23, he is fresh off of a career year where he hit .313, with 29 homers, 95 RBIs, and an OPS of .999. This culminated in him being named to his first All-Star team, second All MLB-First Team, winning his second straight silver slugger, and finishing second in NL MVP voting.
While Soto stole the show, Josh Bell put on a performance of his own, hitting .261, with 27 homers, 88 RBIs, and an OPS of .823. The slugger provided much-needed protection for Soto in the lineup, something the team lacked in 2020.
Over the last two months of the season, the Nats offense led the NL in OBP (.348), and walk percentage (BB%) (11.1%), were third in batting average (.257), and were fourth in wRC+ (104). While they excelled at getting on base, the team was dreadful when it came to delivering the big hit. Washington ranked fifth in OPS (.762), eighth in RBIs (252) ninth in SLG (.415), and 10th in homers (63).
With plenty of power bats left on the open market, now is the perfect time for Washington to bolster their lineup. Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Carlos Correa, and Trevor Story would all be massive improvements.
Before the lockout, Washington was playing it slowly, only signing César Hernández and bringing Alcides Escobar back on respective one-year deals. They chose to sit on the sidelines and were content with other teams shelling out massive deals. The Mets, Rangers, Blue Jays, Mariners, and Tigers all handed out contracts over $100 million.
But once the market opens back up, will Washington finally make a splash or decide to save money and continue with their internal options? Not splurging on a player attached to a qualifying offer is understandable, but that doesn’t mean Washington should be content with their situation.
Bryant and Schwarber are just two players who aren’t attached to the qualifying offer and would be instant upgrades. Scott Boras stated in a press conference that Juan Soto won’t sign an extension until he knows his team is set up to contend.
Keeping Juan Soto happy needs to be the Nationals’ number one priority and they have the opportunity to improve the offense and speed up the rebuild.