The Nationals really got their offseason underway last week, making three moves of note:
- Signed UTL Nick Senzel to a One Year, $2M Deal to play Third Base
- Drafted Nasim Nuñez in the First Round of the Rule 5 Draft to backup the Middle Infield and be a Pinch Runner
- Signed Juan Yepez to a Minor League Deal to provide depth at First Base
None of these moves are all that inspiring, and lead to the conclusion that the Nationals are once again bargain hunting when it comes to their Free Agency strategy. It was this kind of strategy that led to Dom Smith and Corey Dickerson in the first place, which neither turned out very well. The Nationals should at least explore one tier up in terms of Free Agents, and look for players in the $5M to $10M range - players who are a little bit more proven and are not such longshots to bounce back or provide value.
While the Nationals 40 man roster is full at the moment, we could still see more moves to be made. As it stands now, the Nationals still need to bolster their lineup and could use another arm or two.
The Nationals still need a First Baseman, Lefty Outfield Bat and arms in the Rotation and Bullpen.
By my count, the Nationals still need two bats and two arms at a bare minimum. Their roster severely overperformed last year, which is a good thing, but they will need significant reinforcements to sustain that progress and ensure the rebuild is heading in the right direction.
General Manager Mike Rizzo is adamant that they are not going to block any of their prospects, which should not be an issue since there are really only three prospects worth calling up any time soon: James Wood, Dylan Crews and Brady House. The signing of Senzel to only one year, not to mention his positional versatility, does not block Brady House from being the future at Third Base. And the Nationals currently do not have anyone in the outfield that is really a key piece long term, so they should have no issues finding two starting spots for Wood and Crews. They also currently have a vacancy at DH if they really needed it.
Manager Davey Martinez did mention that he would like to have a lefty bat in the outfield as Victor Robles, Lane Thomas, Stone Garrett, Jacob Young and Alex Call are all right handed hitters. I would expect this move to get done at some point soon, which likely means the end for Alex Call in a Nationals uniform. They presumably want to platoon with Stone Garrett in Left Field as they did last year, although Garrett showed promise against Right Handed Pitching late in the year before his injury. Garrett could shift to the Nationals full-time designated hitter if they signed a higher level option for Left Field. Joc Pederson would be my pick as he is a lefty with power, but based on their bargain hunting ways, I think David Peralta is probably the more likely outcome.
Now the Nationals could opt for a lefty power bat at First Base instead. In the same conversation, Martinez alluded to the plan to get Joey Meneses some more time at First Base, an idea Meneses supported. That could lead to a platoon at that position as well, which unfortunately likely takes the Nationals out of the Rhys Hoskins bidding, which would be a perfect fit.
Last month, I jokingly suggested that the Nationals' lone move this offseason would be signing Rowdy Tellez, but that seems increasingly likely now with the latest developments. Other options include Carlos Santana and Brandon Belt if the Nationals were set on a Lefty Bat, with Garrett Cooper being an intriguing right handed option as well. Signing Brandon Belt would certainly bring up difficult memories for some Nationals fans.
The ideal fit in my opinion beyond Rhys Hoskins is Jorge Soler, who will likely be a DH at this point in his career anyways and can provide 40 home run potential annually. Soler is streaky, but provides the power the Nationals desperately need in their lineup. He also would not be blocking any prospects. But the Nationals seem set on a left handed hitter which limits the options.
As far as the arms are concerned, it is a dart throw. Here's the bottom line:
The Nationals rotation has been one of the worst in baseball over the past several seasons, and arguably the worst over certain stretches in that timeframe. Despite the additions of promising young arms such as Josiah Gray, MacKenzie Gore and Jake Irvin, the rotation really struggled. While they have the same 7 or 8 names to consider for their rotation this season, it would really benefit the team to add another veteran arm to provide depth and hopefully transition Trevor Williams to a bullpen role. The Nationals should also add a lefty reliever, such as Andrew Chafin, to give them more depth in that area as well.
Unless they are saving for that one big move, it does seem as though the Nationals will only be looking at deals under $5M which does not inspire optimism. Here's to hoping they are saving money to bring Juan Soto home in 2025.