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MLB Offseason Preview: Washington Nationals

MLB Offseason Preview: Washington Nationals
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After winning the World Series in 2019, the Nationals finished tied for last place in the National League East. Although the team started horribly in their championship season, they were unable to make up ground with the shortened schedule this year. The club declined options on right fielder Adam Eaton and pitcher Anibal Sanchez. They also declined mutual options on first baseman Eric Thames and utility man Howie Kendrick. These moves leave some openings for the 2021 roster. Let’s take a look at the MLB Offseason Preview for the Washington Nationals.

Offseason Strategy

The Nationals have cut down on their depth. They have their core with Trea Turner, Juan Soto, and Victor Robles, but after that the roster gets thin. Washington has multiple older players set to hit free agency in the offseason including Asdrubal Cabrera, Kurt Suzuki, and Brock Holt. Piecing together a bench shouldn’t be too difficult with the amount of money the Lerners can spend. However, putting a competitive team out there night after night will take more work. With much of their minor league talent in the form of pitching, the Nationals will need to figure out who to spend their money on to fill the holes on the field.

Keys to the Offseason

Who’s on First?

The Nationals will likely stick with Carter Kieboom at third base while handing the second-base duties back to Starlin Castro. The team re-signed Josh Harrison and has 20-year-old Luis Garcia to fill in as needed. With Thames leaving, Washington needs to get a big bat to man first base. Using a rotating group during the season will leave a big hole in their lineup on a daily basis. Drew Mendoza is a prospect who has shown some promise. He is a 6’5 240 lb. left-handed bat but hasn’t progressed past Single-A. Power-hitting first basemen are not expensive and the Nats could decide to sign a couple of boppers and play matchups.

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Soto, Robles, and…

With Eaton becoming a free agent, there is a gaping hole in right field. Michael A. Taylor is still there, but at this point is more suited as a fourth outfielder. There are some very good options as some big-name outfielders are free agents. This is a position where Mike Rizzo might want to open his boss’s wallet to get the star and solidify that outfield for the next few years.

Still need a bullpen

The bullpen was an issue in 2019’s championship run but was tempered by the fact that Dave Martinez employed his starters out of the pen on multiple occasions. This year it was again a glaring problem. Daniel Hudson had a forgettable season but will be back in 2021. Sean Doolittle also performed poorly before getting injured this season. He is a free agent and probably won’t be back. The bullpen honestly needs an overhaul. Tanner Rainey and Will Harris form a solid duo to build around. After that, there isn’t much but at least the Nats have options. They have a ton of arms in the minors and could easily bring in some veterans to spring training to give themselves an even bigger pool to choose from.

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Offseason Targets

George Springer, 31, OF

Springer has been a staple in the outfield for the Houston Astros since their resurgence. His postseason resume speaks for itself. The Nationals have the need and also the money to bring in Springer. He gives Washington some flexibility in the outfield as well, being able to play CF (14 DRS) or RF (11 DRS) at an elite level. In 2019, he had a .974 OPS and hit 39 home runs, finishing seventh in MVP voting. With Springer’s experience in the postseason and his defensive ability, the Nats should pursue him hard. The 31-year-old center fielder should command a deal ranging from three to five years at about $23-$28 million per year.

Marcell Ozuna, 29, OF

After the 2019 season, the St. Louis Cardinals offered Ozuna the Qualifying Offer. He declined and signed a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves for $18 million. If he looked at it as a prove-it deal then he certainly proved it. Ozuna led the NL in HRs (18) and RBI (56) with a 1.067 OPS. The free-agent OF will turn 30 this month. While he doesn’t have quite the defensive prowess of Springer, Ozuna is as good of a hitter with a .960 OPS over the past four years compared to Springer’s .979. Washington will spend the money on one of these outfielders. Ozuna will come at a slightly cheaper price and is a year younger. Expect him to get a four-to-six-year deal worth around $20-$25 million per year.

Carlos Santana, 34, 1B/DH

Santana’s $17.5 million option was declined by the Cleveland Indians. He would be a perfect fit for the Nationals. As a switch-hitter, he would save Martinez from making lineup decisions and late moves (.803 OPS lefty, .831 OPS righty). Santana is also one of the most durable players in the league. He has missed a total of 42 games of his team’s games in the past eight seasons. While his averaged dipped to .199 in this short season, he still led the league with 47 walks and had a .349 OBP. He could be had on a two-year deal for $10-$14 million per year.

Brad Hand, 30, RP

Another one of the Indians casualties, Hand is a solid relief pitcher which the Nats so desperately need. Since 2016, Hand has been one of the best in the league out of the pen. In 320 IP, he has a 434/106 K/BB rate and has kept the ball in the park allowing only 31 bombs. The Nationals can take advantage of this market and possibly lock Hand into a three-to-four-year deal for $8-$11 million per year.

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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images

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