Despite being in the middle of a rebuild, the Washington Nationals 26 man roster is littered with aging veterans on expiring deals who are not vital to the team’s future core. Yet, they are taking valuable reps away from the younger players who need experience. Veteran Maikel Franco was already released to make room for Cade Cavalli, a long overdue move. While Washington still has some key candidates to be DFAed, it is unlikely any big moves are on the horizon.
With that said, even if the Washington Nationals don’t DFA them, they cannot afford to re-sign these three veterans.
Signed to a one-year deal to help bolster the backend of Washington’s bullpen, Steve Cishek’s 2022 season has been a rollercoaster — unable to post consecutive successful months. He allowed six runs in his first 7 2/3 innings, granted all six runs were allowed across two outings. Once the calendar turned to May, Cishek turned back the clock, allowing only three runs in 12 1/3 innings, while striking out 15, and only walking five. But come June, Cishek started to stumble again, posting a 6.55 ERA in 11 innings.
He then followed this up by allowing one run in 13 1/3 innings in July, before allowing six runs in nine innings this month. Due to his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde act, the Nats were unable to flip him at the deadline. Cishek is at the end of his career and Washington cannot afford another season of him only being reliable every other month.
Yes, Aníbal Sánchez was a key contributor to Washington’s 2019 World Series title and will always be remembered for almost no-hitting the Cardinals in Game One of the 2019 NLCS. Despite that, the veteran is 38 and hasn’t had an ERA under 6.00 since 2019 (3.85). Washington has arguably the worst starting rotation in baseball and needs to add starters who will give the offense a fighting chance.
On the season, Sánchez is 0-5, with a 7.47 ERA, and 28 strikeouts in eight starts. He’s also allowed a whopping 11 homers while walking 18. Yet, Sánchez has looked solid over his last two starts, allowing only one earned run across 9 1/3 innings, with six strikeouts.
Cade Cavalli, MacKenzie Gore, and Josiah Gray are all projected to be key parts of the Nationals 2023 starting rotation, leaving two spots. Erick Fedde is another candidate to return, but with new ownership expected to take over this off-season, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they chose to revamp the backend of the starting rotation.
Washington needs to avoid the scrap heap and instead set its eyes on signing one of the mid-tier starters — including Sean Manaea, Tyler Anderson, Nathan Eovaldi, Kyle Gibson, and Mike Clevinger.
The writing is already on the wall for César Hernández’s time in D.C. Signed this off-season to a one-year deal to be Washington’s starter at second, he’s been one of the most ineffective starters. A year after slashing .232/.308/.386, with 21 homers, 64 RBIs, and an OPS of .694, he’s posting career worsts. In 125 games this year, he’s slashing .245/.305/.311, with zero homers, 26 RBIs, and an OPS of .615. Hernández’s struggles have already led to him being relegated to the bench, with Luis García taking over at second.
Washington’s middle infield of the future consists of youngsters CJ Abrams and García. Abrams would greatly benefit from more seasoning at AAA next year. In the meantime, the Nats should make signing a stopgap at short a priority, but this time around they need to target a player that they can flip at the deadline. García has been dreadful defensively at shortstop and cannot be moved back, leaving Hernández the odd man out.
Throughout his career, Hernández has been an underrated leadoff hitter due to his ability to make contact, but father time has seemed to finally catch up to the veteran. In 637 games leading off, he’s slashing .262/.342/.384, with 54 homers, 212 RBIs, and a .725 OPS. Unfortunately this season, he’s slashing .229/.291/.296, with 18 RBIs, and an OPS of .587 in 80 games leading off.