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Offseason Needs For The Washington Nationals
As the 2020 "season" wraps up, we are taking a look at the six most important needs that GM Mike Rizzo needs to address during the off-season.
(1) Add a Strong Bat to the Lineup
With the departure of Anthony Rendon, it is fair to say that the Nationals missed his bat and consistent hitting. Additionally, his spot in the lineup proved to be as important. In 2019, Rendon hit right after Juan Soto, which made opposing pitchers pitch to Soto, which helped Soto see more pitches. With no "protection" behind Soto this year, pitchers could easily walk Soto and then get that out that they needed.
The Nationals should find a potent bat to provide that "protection" needed for Soto. One free agent that fits that bill is current Philadelphia catcher J.T. Realmuto. However, he will come at a very steep price as the market was set with Yasmani Grandal's four-year, $73 million deal with the White Sox.
J.T. Realmuto might be worth the price tag as he can DH [if the DH stays in the NL] and is great behind the plate, which will solve two needs. In 2020, J.T. Realmuto is hitting .274 with a slugging percentage of .541. Realmuto has had 40 hits, 11 home runs, 30 RBI's with 146 at-bats, and has played in a total of forty games. In 2019 (a full season), Realmuto had a total of 25 home runs, 83 RBI's, 148 hits, and a slugging percentage of .493. He has proven to be a good player and a great hitter.
(2) Pitching Staff
With Max Scherzer in the final year of his 7-year contract with the Nationals, Anibal Sanchez becoming a free agent, and Strasburg's strange hand injury, a once stable starting pitching staff all of a sudden has become a need for the Nationals.
There are some attractive starting pitching free agents this year. From Jake Arrieta, Corey Kluber to Trevor Bauer led the class to other known pitchers, such as Marcus Stroman. We could even see a reunion with long time Washington Nationals starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann. Zimmermann could be an excellent candidate for a one-year contract. Additionally, the 2022 free-agent class in pitching has a lot of talent.
During the upcoming season, some of the Nationals pitching prospects such as RHP Jackson Rutledge or even RHP Cade Cavalli can get some spot starts in 2021, so they are ready to be the next round of starting pitchers.
Jackson Rutledge has been rocketing up to Single-A Hagerstown in his first professional season and impressing the Nationals front office on all accounts. His next campaign will be his first opportunity to pitch a full season in the minors. If he can prove his health problems are behind him, the major leagues won't be too far ahead.
I also think that the Washington Nationals will be in the market for another closer or a reliever. With Sean Dootlille officially out for the rest of 2020, and his contract expiring, we might have seen Doolittle for the last time in a Washington Nationals uniform. If the Nationals want to add another arm to help out Hudson and not have to break the bank, a suitable replacement could be another former Washington Nationals player: Mark Melancon, who will be turning 36, might be a risky investment; however, if you can get him cheap it might be worth it considering in 2022, there are some exciting options in free agency or even available to trade.
Top Pitching Free Agents
Jake Arrieta (Club Option)
(3) Figure out third base
I am rooting 100% for Carter Kieboom to succeed and become the Washington Nationals' future at the hot corner; however, by having him continually moving between the majors and the training squad, it keeps him from getting the experience he needs to have.
I was glad to see that Dave Martinez will play Kieboom in the lineup more often for the rest of this season so the Nationals can determine what should be the next steps for third base. Either way, the Nationals need to figure out over the offseason and at least take a look at the free-agent market and see what their options are, and go ahead and sign a backup just in case the Keiboom experiment is over. Suppose the Nationals want to keep their options open and keep on investing in Keiboom. In that case, some older players can handle the hot corner, including the current 3B for the LA Dodgers Justin Turner, or if the New York Mets don't pick up Todd Frazier's contract, those players could be attractive options to platoon with Kieboom.
(4) Behind Homeplate
Believe it or not, according to Spotrac.com, the Nationals rank #6 in spending for both Suzuki and Gomes players behind home plate. This year, they spent $3,703,703.00 or 5.25% of their overall payroll.
We all know that the big free-agent behind home plate this off-season will be J.T. Realmuto, who is in the prime of his career and could be a desirable option for his arm behind and his bat when he is at the plate. [See above for the full reason]
(5) Sign Juan Soto?
Wouldn't it be great if the Nationals could put this issue to rest and make Juan Soto a National for life? We all know that it would be rare if Soto's agent Scott Boras would even entertain the idea, but as one National has already said: "Boras works for me..." so you never know?
(6) Sign Trea Turner
Signing Trea Turner should be priority number one for the Nationals. Turner has been excellent at the plate this "season," his ability to set the table for the Washington Nationals offense, and his defense has made him a precious asset. This season Turner is hitting .368/.421/.632 with nine home runs and five stolen bases in 171 plate appearances. While these stats might not be sustainable, it seems that Turner has seemingly turned a corner offensively.
Mike Rizzo has been quoted saying: "He's [Trea Turner] everything that our scouts said he was not only in the amateur draft, but when we made the trade for him, and again, he's one of the guys — the type of ability players and makeup guys that you build franchises around."
The best news that could happen this offseason is an announcement from MLB and the Washington Nationals that fans can return to Nationals Park and finally celebrate the 2019 World Series win with a few banner-raising celebrations!
Notable 2021 Washington Nationals Free Agents
Anibal Sanchez, 37 (SP)
Kurt Suzuki, 37 (C)
Adam Eaton, 32 (RF)
Michael Taylor, 30 (CF)
Asdrubal Cabrera, 35 (2B)
Sean Doolittle, 34 (RP)
Ryan Zimmerman, 36 (1B)