The Washington Nationals starting the season off 19-31 seems like a distant dream. They were able to flip the script, finishing the season 74-38, and locking up a Wild Card spot in the process. Then the Nationals went on a run that saw the team defeat Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros to win the first World Series in franchise history.
Now the team faces plenty of questions this offseason. Superstar Anthony Rendon, ace Stephen Strasburg, original face of the franchise Ryan Zimmerman and the majority of the teams depth are all free agents. Major changes are coming to the teams roster and here is what to expect.
Hands down the best player on the team, Rendon had a career year. He hit .319, with 34 homers, 126 RBIs, and had an OPS of 1.010. He also plays above-average defense at third base. In the playoffs, the 29-year-old stepped up when his team need him most. He hit .328 with three homers and 15 RBIs.
Rendon will be 30 years old next season and is a Scott Boras client. Washington’s front office has been adamant on the fact they want to bring him back. It’s easier said than done when dealing with Boras. It was reported that the Nationals offered Rendon a seven-year deal worth 210-215 million that he turned down. Boras offered an undisclosed counter-offered that the front office rejected. While the Nationals want to re-sign the MVP candidate, both sides are not close to a deal. Look for a deal worth 35 million a year to get the deal done.
Strasburg was drafted number one overall in 2009 and has gone on to have a solid career with Washington. He was the most hyped pitching prospect and history and injuries have prevented him from living up to his full potential. This year however Strasburg evolved his game, avoided injuries and put together the best season of his nine-year career. Strasburg went 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA, and 251 strikeouts.
He was able to carry over his dominance into the playoffs where he went 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA, and 47 strikeouts, while winning World Series MVP in the process. This led to the veteran opting out of the remaining four years and $100 million, deservedly so. Despite opting out, Strasburg is expected to re-sign. He opted to forgo free agency in 2016 when he signed his first extension with the team. MLB Trade rumors predicted Strasburg re-signs on a six-year deal worth $180 million.
Mr. National, the team’s first draft pick. Ryan Zimmerman has been apart of the organization since 2005 and it is weird to picture the team without him. But the team declined his team option for next season making Zimmerman a free agent. Both sides have expressed interest in coming to terms on a new deal.
GM Mike Rizzo was quoted on saying, “When he’s a healthy player, he’s a pretty damn good one still,”. But that has been a problem with Zimmerman lately. He hasn’t played in a full season since 2017. Before then it was 2013. This year he only appeared in 52 games which was the least amount in his career since 2005 when he was an end of the year call up. Zimmerman has played his entire career with the Nats and that won’t change next year. A two year deal for $10 million might get the job done.
Howie Kendrick. Brian Dozier. Asdrubal Cabrera. Gerardo Parra. Daniel Hudson. Yan Gomes. Matt Adams. The majority of the Nationals depth are free agents and many of them won’t return.
Howie Kendrick is already on the wish list for the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays. The NLCS MVP showed he can still produce at 36 and would be a fit to be a platoon/DH in the AL. This year in 121 games, Kendrick hit .344 with 62 RBIs. In the playoffs he elevated his game to another level and was a key contributor. In 63 at-bats, he hit .286 with two homers and 12 RBIs.
Gerardo Parra and Asdrubal Cabrera were claimed off of waivers in May and August respectively. Parra turned the clubhouse around and drastically raised morale. He quickly became a fan favorite and could be brought back on another small one year deal to be a lefty off the bench. In 93 games with the Texas Rangers, Cabrera hit .235 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs. In only 38 games with the Nats, Cabrera hit .323 with six homers, and 40 RBIs. He became a crucial part of the Nationals push for a playoff berth. Expect Cabrera back on a one year deal to be the second baseman. If Kieboom is ready, then Cabrera will be the utility man.
Dozier was signed to a one year deal to be a placeholder till top prospect Carter Kieboom was ready. It will be highly unlikely Dozier returns.
Matt Adams and Yank Gomes both had their options declined. Adams might be more suited for the AL as a DH at this point in his career. While Washington will need another catcher to platoon with Kurt Suzuki, it seems Washington will look elsewhere. It is highly unlikely either will be back with Washington next year.
Daniel Hudson was a godsend in disguise for the Nationals. He posted a 3.00 ERA with the Toronto Blue Jays and went under the radar. The 32-year-old was acquired at the trade deadline to help bolster the bullpen. When closer Sean Doolittle was placed on the IL, Hudson stepped up and posted 1.44 ERA and went 6/8 in save opportunities. In the playoffs, Hudson closed out the Wild Card game, Game 5 of the NLDS, and game seven of the World Series. Hudson reestablished himself with Washington and formed a deadly combo with Doolittle at the back of the bullpen. Look for Washington to re-sign him to help out a bullpen that still needs reinforcements.
Feature Image From CNBC.com