MLB free agency has finally resumed, but don’t get upset if the Washington Nationals don’t make any drastic moves. Expect them to fly under the radar.
After 99 days of a mixture of silence and bickering, both MLB and the MLBPA have finally reached an agreement on a new CBA. Despite earlier reports of games being canceled, this year will see the teams play 162 games, with Opening Day on April 7.
Most importantly, free agency is set to resume later tonight and it is rumored that the flood gates will open. Before the lockout, the Washington Nationals decided to play it quietly, bringing back Alcides Escobar and signing César Hernández to respective one-year deals. Washington still has major holes in the back both the rotation and bullpen. They can also benefit from adding a left fielder and a DH.
Per Spotrac the Nats have just under $100 million in competitive balance tax space, meaning they have plenty of money if they want to splurge on a bat. Yet, the question arises — should they? With plenty of holes and entering the first full year of their rebuild, Washington is nowhere near being ready to contend. Outside of Cade Cavalli, their top prospects are all 2-3 years away.
Would signing the likes of Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, Nick Castellanos, Freddie Freeman, or Carlos Rodon make the Nationals better? Yes. But it doesn’t match up with their timetable. In the past, Mike Rizzo has specified 2024 as the year the Nationals will return to contention. That also marks the last year of Juan Sotos’s contract.
Washington has never been afraid to open up their checkbooks, with the Jayson Werth, Max Scherzer, and Patrick Corbin signings coming to mind. Yet, all of those moves were made when Washington was either ready to start contending or in the middle of their window.
There are plenty of free agents on the open market that would improve the roster without the Nats having to break the bank. Rodon is the top starting on the market, but Tyler Anderson, Zach Greinke, and Chris Archer would all bring stability to the backend of the rotation.
Outfielders Tommy Pham and Eddie Rosario are decent stopgaps that provide production lower down in the lineup. Ryan Tepera and Collin McHugh are both coming off of solid seasons and would vastly improve the Nats bullpen.
While none of these moves are flashy, it allows the Nationals to save money and sign veterans who they might be able to flip for more prospects at the deadline. Replenishing the Nationals farm system has to be the number one priority.