The Nationals may be saying good-bye to Bryce Harper, or maybe they’re aren’t. No matter what, the team is remaining aggressive in pursuit of a World Series championship.
Current State: World Series Contender
Nationals Sign SP Patrick Corbin
In a huge and surprising development, the Nationals have signed starting pitcher Patrick Corbin to a six year, $140 million contract. Corbin, 29, was pegged by many as the best starting pitcher available on the open market after a breakout 2018 season in which he posted a 3.15 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP and a 2.47 FIP. He actually allowed a career high hard contact rate in 2018, but he only allowed contact 66.8% of the time, which is elite. Therefore, it’s no surprise that he struck batters out a career best rate (11.1 K/9). What made Corbin so effective to go along with his stellar strike out rates was his ability to limit free passes (2.2 BB/9). Add those two numbers together, and you get an amazing strikeout to walk ratio of 5.13. After years of having an ineffective fastball, Corbin produced a fastball runs above average of 6.5,and complemented it with an elite slider that produced a runs above average of 27. Corbin’s stuff seemed to tick up in 2018, which isn’t surprising since he’s now four years removed from undergoing Tommy John surgery. As long as his stuff remains nasty, and his command doesn’t fall off, he should be a front-line caliber starter for the Nationals. With a trio of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Corbin, Washington may have the National League’s best rotation. This is just step one to putting together a team that should be considered a favorite to reach the World Series, with or without Bryce Harper. It’s definitely a risk and a slight overpay for a pitcher with an injury history with a career ERA of just 3.91, but they’re paying for what they’ll get from Corbin in the future, not what he’s done in the past.
Nationals Sign C Kurt Suzuki
The Nationals have signed catcher Kurt Suzuki to a two year, $10 million contract. Suzuki, 35, had a productive season with the Braves in a platoon role with Tyler Flowers. He had a .776 OPS with 12 home runs, and had a WAR of 2.1. His defense was below average last season (-7 drs), but he provides value in a partial role with his offensive production that has been right on par with the league’s best catchers. His hard contact rate was a career best 38.7% last season, while his line drive percentage of 23.2% was also a career high. After a season in which they were amongst the league’s worst in catcher production, Suzuki is an immense upgrade over anyone on the roster in 2018, and if used properly in a platoon/partial role, he will likely live up to his salary.
Nationals Acquire C Yan Gomes in Exchange For OF Daniel Johnson and RHP Jefry Rodriguez
The Nationals have acquired catcher Yan Gomes from the Indians in exchange for outfield prospect Daniel Johnson and right handed pitcher Jefry Rodriguez. Gomes, 31, had a bounce back season last year. He posted a .762 OPS with 16 home runs and had a 2.6 WAR. In addition to being solid offensively, Gomes also performed well defensively last season, as he had a defensive runs saved of 4. Gomes had a stellar hard contact rate of 43.2%, and his line drive rate also skyrocketed in 2018. There’s still some concern with Gomes’ decreased walk rate (4.8%) and high strikeout rate (27.4%), which definitely limits his ceiling. This is also his first season with an OPS over .750 since 2014, so there has to be some worry that he could regress this season. He’s also making a hefty $9 million this year, which hurts since they are likely going to be over the luxury tax again. Still, I like the platoon with Gomes and Suzuki, and though Johnson is a legitimate prospect, this is mostly a salary dump acquisition. If Gomes doesn’t regress this season, he’ll be a big part of what the Nationals hope is a playoff team.
Nationals Sign RP Trevor Rosenthal
The Nationals have signed reliever Trevor Rosenthal to a one year, $8 million deal. Rosenthal, 28, missed the entire 2018 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. In 2017 with the Cardinals, he had a 3.40 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP and a 2.17 FIP. He also had an elite strikeout rate (14.3 K/9), limited hard contact (26%), and had a 32.1% whiff rate. His fastball reached nearly 100 MPH, and he also has induced more ground balls than fly balls in every season he’s pitched it. It’s impossible to know how he’ll do after having the surgery, but he has closer upside. Washington is set in the 9th inning with Sean Doolittle, but Rosenthal could easily become his set up man. $8 million is a lot of a risk like this, but it may be worth it considering the upside.
Nationals Acquire RP Kyle Barraclough in Exchange For International Slot Money
The Nationals have acquired reliever Kyle Barraclough from the Marlins in exchange for international slot money. Barraclough, 28, had an uneven season with Miami last year. He posted an elite 1.28 ERA in the first half, but just a 13.50 ERA in the second half. All together, he had a 4.20 ERA with a 1.33 WHIP and a 4.98 FIP. His career low .232 batting average balls in play despite a career high 34.2% hard contact rate allows signals that those numbers should have been even worse, as signaled by his -2.70 win probability added. Still, he had an ERA of 3.00 or below in his other two seasons, so he may bounce back in 2018. Washington is betting on him to regain his first half form, but they aren’t risking anything with the return simply being international slot money. If it works out, he could fill a middle relief role and help establish a strong bullpen. If not, then he’s still useful pitching depth with three years left of team control.
Nationals Sign 1B Matt Adams
After trading him in August to the Cardinals, the Nationals have brought back first baseman Matt Adams on a one year, $4 million deal. Adams, 30, was terrific in his time with Washington last season. He posted an .842 OPS with them, but only had a .533 OPS with the Cardinals. He’ll likely be a role player who can sometimes platoon with Ryan Zimmerman or be their top hitter off the bench. He’s perfect in that role, as his OPS is .200 points higher against righties than lefties. In the National League, having a productive power bat off the bench is valuable, and Adams has excelled at pinch-hitting over the year. That, and the fact that he’s the perfect player to spell Ryan Zimmerman sometimes against righties, and the fit here is definitely ideal to say the least. At $4 million, this is tremendous value for Washington.
Nationals Sign SP Anibal Sanchez
The Nationals have signed starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez to a two-year, $19 million deal. Sanchez, 34, revitalized his career last season with the Braves. After a three-year span in which he averaged a 5.76 ERA with the Tigers, he posted a 2.83 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP and a 3.62 FIP. Sanchez changed the way he pitched last year, decreasing his fastball usage to 38% and increasing his cutter usage to 22.5%. It was a clear success, as he limited hard contact to an impressive rate of 27.7% and his ground ball rate went 35.6% to 45%. It’s difficult to project Sanchez since he was awful before 2018 and only has one season under his belt with this new style of pitching, but isn’t neccesarly a bad thing. Sanchez was strong throughout the year, so hitters weren’t able to catch on to him. He averaged just under 6 innings a start, so he’s a quality over quantity type of pitcher, but that’s okay considering he’s the #4 starter for a team with arguably the league’s best trio of starting pitchers. $9.5 million a year isn’t crazy considering Trevor Cahill received $9 million and Matt Harvey received $11 million, and this move solidifies what may be the best rotation in the National League, if not in all of baseball.
Nationals Sign 2B Brian Dozier
To fill a hole at second base, the Nationals have signed second baseman Brian Dozier to a one year, $9 million deal. Dozier, 31, is a extremely intriguing bounceback candidate after posting just a .696 OPS last season between the Twins and Dodgers. Dozier had posted an OPS over .850 in the two seasons prior, so this rough production was surprising to say the least. However, it can be explained. For starters, it’s unclear Dozier was healthy. He clearly didn’t look right, and admitted that he played through a knee injury. That would explain why his OPS dropped from .738 in the first half to .615 in the second half. Also, Dozier dealt with severe bad luck. His hard contcat rate of 37.3% was actual a career best last season despite dealing with the knee injury, yet his batting average balls in play of .240 was .60 points down from the season prior, while his walk and whiff rates remained the same. Dozier’s value mostly comes from his offense due to his below average fielding, but his power will help Washington’s lineup recover if they do not resign Bryce Harper. Even if he can’t fully bounce back to his 2016 or 2017 form, where he averaged a 5.4 WAR, he should still be good enough for a WAR around 3.0, and that’s certainly worth $9 million on a year deal. This is a sneaky move that could be difference in a crowded NL East.
Nationals Sign SP Jeremy Hellickson
The Nationals have brought back starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, signing him to a one year, $1.3 million contract with incentives that can push it to $4 million. Hellickson, 31, had a bounce back season with the Nationals. In 91.1 innings, he posted a 3.45 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP and a 4.22 FIP. Hellickson did a much better job limiting hard contact (26.4%), which tends to be his bread and butter. He also induced far more ground balls, continued to limit his walks, and saw a slight increase in his strikeout rate. He’s likely more of a 4.30 ERA pitcher than one with a 3.45, but for just $1.3 million, he provides some certainty in the back end of Washington’s rotation at a very affordable price. Depth was a concern for the Nationals in the rotation, but they now have some with this signing.
*Will Be Updated With Every Move The Nationals Make