The Nationals had a decent 2023 season showing some potential at points, finishing with a record of 71-91. It is not the greatest, but it is a step in the right direction after losing 107 games in 2022. With the impending rookies likely to be called up at some point in 2024, and the emergence of some young studs already in the big leagues, this raises the question of whether Mike Rizzo should go after some big-name Free Agents to help jumpstart this franchise into a contender once again.
The biggest name in the 2024 free-agent class is Shohei Ohtani, and the Nats have a 0% chance (in my humble opinion) of landing him. However, Mike Rizzo and the Lerners should still be ready to spend big either this winter or next. The main three positions that the Nats could use a big-name free agent at are First Base, Third Base and Starting Pitcher.
First Base Targets
At First Base, Rhys Hoskins is the leading stud on the market, and he's a great fit for the Nationals. A 31-year-old vet with an 11.1 career WAR and playoff experience is exactly what the Nationals need, especially with an extreme lack of prospects able to play the position. Hoskins would likely fit the Nationals' budget as he is coming off an ACL injury and would likely want a prove-it deal in order to cash in on a bigger payday and long-term contract next offseason.
Joey Gallo and Brandon Belt are two other bats Rizzo could look to add that wouldn't surprise me. One guy to keep an eye on is Joey Votto. He is a lefty bat with some pop that is looking to continue his playing career and just feels like the kind of player the Nationals would target, although much of what the Nationals decide to do at first base rests on whether or not they will retain Dominic Smith.
Third Base Targets
At Third Base, there aren't as many options on the market, and I don't think the Nats need to sign anyone for the long term. I could see Rizzo going after someone like Justin Turner or even a reunion with Jeimer Candelario on for another short-term contract to bridge the gap to top-prospect Brady House. Matt Chapman is likely the best Third Baseman on the market, but is possibly out of the price range for what the Nationals would be willing to pay.
Starting Pitcher Targets
Even though I believe the Nats could use a veteran position player in the clubhouse more than a starting pitcher, with Mike Rizzo's track record, it seems much more likely he goes after a starting pitcher this offseason. This winter, there are some great veteran starting pitcher options on the market, including Blake Snell, Aaron Nola, Clayton Kershaw, Sonny Gray, and Jordan Montgomery to come in and mentor our young rotation. Mike Rizzo's best option to go after is Aaron Nola, a 31-year-old with a 31.7 career WAR.
I think going after Nola makes sense for Rizzo and would mirror almost exactly what he did in 2015 with Max Scherzer by going out and getting a budding superstar pitcher with Postseason/World Series experience to help bring the Nats out of a rebuild and into playoff contention in the next coming years. We will see if history repeats itself.