The Nationals most certainly won't be in on big names like Shohei Ohtani this offseason, but there are some good players that aren't as expensive and can help the Nats fill gaps on their roster. And despite having a solid year considering where they were last season and their roster to start the season, the Nationals definitely still have some areas of need they should address prior to the 2024 season.
The Nationals and Mike Rizzo have been frequent shoppers in the bargain bin recently, with the occasional hits like Kyle Schwarber and Jeimer Candelario. In order to take another step forward next season, they will need to hit on a couple more.
The first player that I think the Nationals should go after is Rhys Hoskins. Hoskins tore his ACL in spring training and has missed the entire season. Coming off an injury will give Hoskins a lower price tag and the power that he can provide greatly outweighs that of Dominic Smith. Smith has improved as the season has gone on but he has only hit 11 home runs to this point all while still having an OPS under .700. The Nationals need much more production out of that position. Hoskins should hit 20-30 home runs and provide the Nats with the power that they have been sorely lacking in 2023. I would sign Hoskins to a one-year deal with a team option for 2025, something that Hoskins should be considering as he will likely want to bet on himself in hopes of securing a longer term contract after a strong, healthy season.
Similar to their pursuit of Jeimer Candelario last season, who has now likely played his way into a contract that the Nats likely won't reach, the Nationals should try to sign third baseman Gio Urshela. Urshela is coming off an injury-plagued season with the Angels but was hitting .299 through 214 at-bats at the time of his injury. Brady House isn't quite ready yet and I really don't think Carter Kieboom or Ildemaro Vargas are the answer as your full time third-baseman in the meantime. I would sign Urshela to a one-year deal and then flip him at the deadline and call up House. House has had a terrific season this year and finished very strong with Double-A Harrisburg, putting him on track to start next season with AAA Rochester and be a potential midseason call-up. He finished the year with a .862 OPS across three minor league levels.
Pitching is always necessary and arguably the most intriguing "prove it" deal type player is starting pitcher Lucas Giolito. Giolito started his career with Washington when he was called up in 2016 and was traded to the Chicago White Sox in the infamous Adam Eaton deal.
Entering 2024 the Nationals will have a starting rotation of Mackenzie Gore, Josiah Gray, Patrick Corbin, and Jake Irvin. Trevor Williams isn't meant to be a starting pitcher as his numbers this year reflect his 2018 numbers when he started a similar number of games. He needs to be used in the same role that he was used with the Mets in 2022 when he pitched to a 3.21 ERA in 30 games with 9 starts, but was primarily a reliever in lower leverage situations. Cade Cavalli is projecting himself to be back in June 2024, so Giolito can be flipped near the deadline if signed to a one-year deal. Giolito has had a rough year but if he can stay consistent then he will certainly be better than Trevor Williams has been and maybe fetch a decent return at the trade deadline.
Honorable Mentions (likely too expensive):
- Hyun Jin-Ryu
- Jeimer Candelario
- CJ Cron