Needing to clear some roster space, the Nationals decided to move on from some of their 2023 signees. Infielder Michael Chavis, Outfielder Blake Rutherford, and right-handed-reliever Hobie Harris were outrighted to Triple-AAA Rochester, and have all elected free agency.
Chavis, 28, signed a minor league deal with the team in early January and made the Opening Day roster out of Spring Training. Chavis struggled offensively throughout the season, with a lowly .622 OPS over his 96 plate appearances. Chavis' role with the team was mainly as a pinch runner, but Chavis did find himself involved in 2 of the walk-off moments from the 2023 season. Chavis hit 2 homers over 91 at bats.
Harris, 30, also signed a minor-league contract with the Nationals in early 2023 and made the Opening Day roster. Harris had a lot of promise coming into the season as Harris had the best ERA and stat line of all relievers on the team in the spring. Harris would later make his MLB debut on April 1st against the Braves. Harris pitched to a 5.12 ERA over 19 games, striking out 9 and walking 13 and bounced between MLB and Triple-AAA throughout the season.
Rutherford, 26, spent most of the season with the Double-AA & Triple-AAA affiliates and had a surprisingly strong stat line. In 41 Triple-AAA games, Rutherford slashed a whopping .331 with 5 homers and 21 RBI. With RF Stone Garrett suffering a season-ending injury, Rutherford was called up in August for his long awaited Major League debut, but would only end up hitting .171 with the big league team. Rutherford was eventually sent back down to Triple-AAA before the end of the season.
The Nationals needed to clear roster spots for a few reasons. First, Outfielder Victor Robles has 1 more year with the team and needed to be added back to the roster after returning from the 60-day IL. Second, the Nationals have a few players they'd like to protect from the Rule 5 Draft. Most important is the newly acquired LHP DJ Herz, who has been lights out since being acquired from the Cubs in the midseason trade for Jeimer Candelario. The Nationals lost outfielder Josh Palacios last season to the Pirates via the Rule 5 Draft and Palacios would up having a terrific rookie season with Pittsburgh. The Nationals do not want to let any of their young talent walk out the door as easy as the Rule 5 draft. Finally, the Nationals need to create more roster flexibility in order to sign free agents and potentially make trades - basically just to get more fresh faces on the roster.
The Nationals have already had a lot of turnover within their Front Office and later with their Coaching Staff. Now, the roster reshaping is underway. Losing Chavis, Harris and Rutherford is not that big of a surprise or loss for the Nationals, although they will need to address those bench spots and bullpen depth in the offseason.