The defending World Series champion Nationals would surely love to be able to enjoy their monumental accomplishment, but they don’t exactly have time to- two of their core players, Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg, are both free agents. It’s likely that Washington to lose one of them, but who will it be, and how will they replace them with their lackluster farm system and little spending power? General manager Mike Rizzo has some crucial decisions to make.
Expected Direction: Trying To Win Back-to-Back World Series
Nationals Re-Sign C Yan Gomes
Contract Details: Two Years, $10 Million
The Nationals have re-signed a player from their World Series-winning team! No, they haven’t come to an agreement with Stephen Strasburg or Anthony Rendon, at least not yet, but they have re-signed catcher Yan Gomes on a two-year contract worth $10 million. After being acquired from the Indians last offseason, Gomes, 32, regressed to the tune of a 79 wrc+ and 0.8 WAR, splitting time with Kurt Suzuki behind the plate. However, on the bright side, his 10.6% walk rate was by far a career-high, and he’s generally a solid defender as well. At the very worst, Washington keeps a solid catching duo intact. However, if Gomes’ offense can improve – his .265 BABIP was a little low – he’ll be the player they thought they were getting when they acquired him, which would be well worth the $10 million he’ll be paid; catchers are the hardest position to find an answer to, so when you can fill that potential hole, it’ll almost always be worth it.
Nationals Re-Sign INF Howie Kendrick
Contract Details: One Year, $6.25 Million (Mutual Option 2021)
Continuing with their goal to “bring the band back together”, the Nationals re-signed World Series hero Howie Kendrick to a one-year contract worth $6.25 million. It’ll be his go-ahead home runs in Game 5 of the NLDS and Game 7 of the World Series that define Kendrick’s 2019 season, but his success goes beyond that. In fact, the 36-year-old was fantastic in the regular season, posting a 146 wrc+ and 2.9 WAR. Yet, there’s reason to believe Kendrick actually underperformed last season. Based on the high quality of his contact – he ranked in the 94th percentile in hard-hit rate – his expected weighted-on-base average (xwOBA, .419) was actually higher than his .400 wOBA. Therefore, there’s plenty of reason to believe that this will be an incredible signing for Washington, beyond sentimental reasons; Kendrick is versatile, and deserved a multi-year contract after his incredible 2019. Yet, the Nationals got him back on a relatively cheap one-year contract, despite there being a lot of rumored competition for him
Nationals Re-Sign SP Stephen Strasburg
Contract Details: Seven Years, $245 Million (With Deferred Money)
Nationals Sign RP Will Harris
Contract Details: Three Years, $24 Million
The Nationals may have won the World Series last season, but still, they had no choice but to upgrade a bullpen that was abysmal last season. Ironically, they did so by bringing in the pitcher who allowed the heroic Howie Kendrick go-ahead home run in Game 7 of the World Series- they signed Will Harris to a three-year contract. Aside from the obvious awkwardness, this is a pretty unusual deal, as guaranteeing three years to a 35-year-old reliever is very uncommon. However, that’s what it took to bring in Harris on a relatively cheap cost in terms of AAV; he’s been consistently great for the past seven seasons. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t risk with his performance though, as not only could age regression get to him, but given his heavy workload in recent years, there’s significant injury potential with him as well- he has a very similar profile to David Robertson, who had to undergo Tommy John surgery last season after being healthy for his entire career. If Harris stays healthy, he should make good on this contract, but that’s a major if, and giving a three-year deal to any older reliever isn’t usually wise.
Nationals Sign INF Starlin Castro
Contract Details: Two Years, $12 Million
The Nationals may still be looking to reel in the “big fish” at third base to replace Anthony Rendon, but not only do they need a Plan B in case they don’t land Josh Donaldson, but they also may see second base as a short-term need. Well, they’ve brought in Starlin Castro on a two-year deal worth $12 million, and according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, he’ll be their starting second baseman. Castro, 29, was on his way to be a very poor season, but in the second half, went on an absolute tear; he posted a 129 wrc+, and was a much greater power threat (.256 isolated power). Overall, he appears to be average offensively, and the same can be said with his defense; he’s not an exciting addition, but will be good for about 1-2 WAR. Plus, he showed the ability to play second base AND third base, which could be very useful depending on their pursuit of Donaldson. Overall, Castro doesn’t come with much upside, but nonetheless, he’s a nice asset to have; does this mean Howie Kendrick will play first base?
Nationals Sign INF Asdrubal Cabrera
Contract Details: One Year, $2.5 Million ($500K In Incentives)
Continuing to add depth to their infield, the Nationals have brought back another familiar face. This time, it’s Asdrubal Cabrera on a one-year contract; the 34-year-old was amazing after being signed by the Nationals in August, posting a 145 wrc+ and 48.6% hard contact rate. Now, as evidenced by his overall 98 wrc+, he clearly couldn’t handle being an everyday infielder with the Rangers, but like Castro, he’s a shoo-in for a 1-2 WAR season, and for $3 million at most, that’s a bargain. Now, this further makes their infield situation unclear; they still have top prospect Carter Kieboom, now have Kendrick, Castro, and Kendrick, and also are still pursuing Donaldson. However, you can’t help but appreciate them looking to add cheap depth.
Nationals Re-Sign RP Daniel Hudson
Contract Details: Two Years, $11 Million ($1 Million Incentives)
After they brought in Harris, the general consensus was that the Nationals would let Daniel Hudson leave via free agency. However, in the end, the temptation to bring back the pitcher who closed out Game 7 of the World Series appeared to be too much for them- they re-signed Hudson to a two-year deal worth $11 million. With a 2.47 ERA, it would seem as though the 32-year-old had a career year. Yet, that was not the case- his 5.08 xFIP and 2.63 K-BB ratio aren’t exactly ideal. Even upon being traded to the Nationals, his 1.44 ERA isn’t backed up at all by a 4.68 xFIP, even though his K-BB ratio (5.8) was much better. Between home run luck (8.6% HR/FB rate) and a .247 BABIP (despite a career-worst 39.1% hard contact rate allowed), he was able to get lucky enough over a 73-inning stretch to earn a multi-year contract, which happens often with relievers. Still, pitchers cannot sustain luck, and as a result, I expect Hudson to revert back to being a subpar reliever this season; he may turn into a sunk cost for the Nationals, and bring him back was undoubtedly a sentimental decision.
Nationals Sign 1B Eric Thames
Contract Details: One Year, $4 Million (Mutual Option 2021)
Even during their World Series championship run, the Nationals clearly needed a left-handed power bat, particularly at first base. Well, they’ve found the solution to that problem, bringing in slugger Eric Thames on a one-year contract. Thames, 33, has been a productive player since returning to MLB after playing in Korea; in a three-year stint with the Brewers, he compiled a 4.9 WAR despite playing in a limited capacity. His expected statistics aren’t ideal, so his strong 116 wrc+ campaign from 2019 shouldn’t be anticipated, but still, he’s able to mash right-handed pitching, and will do fine in a platoon role, whomever that may be with. The Nationals now have a crowded infield, but they’ve done a nice job bringing in veterans and affordable contracts, and hey, having too many infielders isn’t exactly a bad thing.
*Will Be Updated With Every Move The Nationals Make