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Nationals decline Robles's club option. Is Robles's time with the Nationals coming to a close?
The Nationals declined their 2024 club option on Victor Robles, but that doesn’t necessarily mean an end to the outfielder’s time with the organization.
Yesterday, it was reported by Andrew Golden of The Washington Post that the Nationals declined the club option on Victor Robles's deal. With his option declined, the Nationals face the choice of not tendering him a contract for 2024 or potentially offering him more than the $2.325 million he earned this season through arbitration.
It's important to note that the Nationals' 40-man roster currently projects to have 41 players once the individuals on the 60-day injured list are activated. Despite this, Robles won't immediately become a free agent because he still holds one more year of arbitration eligibility.
Does this decision indicate the approaching end of Robles's time with the Washington Nationals?
In this morning's briefing, Haden shared his perspective on Robles's future with the team:
My take: The Victor Robles question, in my eyes, comes down to one thing. Who is better, Victor Robles or Alex Call? I don’t think either will make the Opening Day roster. So, who would you rather have start the year in Triple-A? Personally, I’d rather have Victor Robles, but I understand why many would rather start a clean slate with Alex Call.
As for the rumors that the Nationals are shopping Robles on the trade market, I’d consider it a red flag if a team is looking to acquire Robles. Sure, he’s been a plus baserunner over the past five years, and by wRC+ 21 percent worse than the league average hitter, which is passable for a Gold Glove center fielder.
Victor Robles's journey with the Nationals has been quite eventful. In his rookie year in 2017, as a then-twenty-year-old, he maintained a .250 batting average and an OPS of .766, playing in only 13 games with 27 plate appearances. When he was called up in 2017, Robles was ranked as the #8 prospect in baseball.
In 2019, the twenty-two-year-old played the entire season with the Nationals and was designated the opening-day center fielder. 2019 turned out to be his most impressive season, hitting .255 with 33 doubles, 17 home runs, and stealing 35 bases, in addition to showcasing outstanding defensive plays, earning him a nomination as a Gold Glove finalist for the first time in his career.
However, since 2019, Robles hasn't maintained the same level of performance. Over the past three seasons, he has hit only 11 home runs.
Robles has struggled with injuries and making a return to peak performance this season. Unfortunately, due to a midseason re-aggravation of his back injury, he did not return to play for the Nationals for the remainder of this season. In 2023, Robles participated in only 36 games due to a back injury.
He concluded the season with a .299/.385/.364 line, registering no home runs, five doubles, a triple, eight RBIs, eight stolen bases, and 15 runs scored in his 126 plate appearances.
During Robles's absence, the Nationals utilized prospects Alex Call and Jacob Young in center field. However, with an influx of trades and the signing of prospects, the Nationals now face a backlog of players in the minors. The situation around Robles doesn't seem promising as we await the team's next moves.
Reflecting on Robles back in September, Davey Martinez expressed in an interview with MASN: “It's disappointing for him and for us because we encouraged him to make adjustments to his swing... He did so and was performing exceptionally well. I truly wish we could have witnessed that over 550 plate appearances, as I believe he would have surprised many. But only time will reveal the outcome now.”
Indeed, Martinez, only time will determine what lies ahead for the once-promising and "untouchable" Robles and the Washington Nationals.
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