The Washington Nationals received the World Sequence for the primary time in franchise historical past final week. Do you know that? They did. There is a trophy and every little thing.
Whereas at this writing the celebration has but to completely subside, in sure corners of the group the main target has already shifted to the longer term. The Romans amongst others proved it is potential to celebration and ruminate on the identical time, so when you, the Nationals rooter, proceed to celebration, we’ll handle the rumination insofar because the membership’s near-term future is worried. Forthwith.
First, the Nationals have the foundations of a contender in place and underneath group management. Juan Soto, maybe the most effective younger pure hitter in baseball, will probably be pre-arbitration this winter, as will promising younger fly-catcher Victor Robles. Shortstop Trea Turner returns for his age-27 marketing campaign, and within the rotation the Nationals nonetheless have ace Max Scherzer and lefty complement Patrick Corbin underneath long-term contract. The nonetheless helpful Anibal Sanchez returns, as properly. They’ve exercised their $9.5 million choice on Adam Eaton for 2020, and veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki, who during the last three seasons has hit 48 dwelling runs in 271 video games, is locked up.
All of that provides as much as the muse of a contender. The Nats, in any case, are recent off a 93-win season and have ripped off eight straight profitable campaigns. Earlier than, nonetheless, we drift right into a state of assumption allow us to word that the Nats stand to lose their greatest participant, third baseman Anthony Rendon, to free company. Rendon this season authored a 6.three , and he is obtained a complete of 16.four WAR during the last three seasons. Regardless that he’ll flip 30 in June, he is headed for a serious payday. , and he is properly testing the market.
Elsewhere, the Nats may additionally be dealing with the lack of right-hander and World Sequence MVP Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg signed a seven-year, $175 million contract extension in Might of 2016, however that deal included an opt-out after this previous season, which Strasburg has already utilized. Provided that Strasburg is coming off a season wherein he led the NL in innings and registered an ERA+ of 138 with 251 strikeouts — and given his dominant run within the postseason — selecting free company was probably a straightforward name.
Sure, the Nats will nonetheless have an enviable core in place, however they should complement that core in the event that they’re to reap the benefits of what’s in place. That may require further payroll investments. However will the Lerner household do what’s required to offer the group a shot at a repeat? The Nationals in 2017 had been certainly one of 5 groups to be over the aggressive stability tax threshold (CBT or, because it’s extra generally identified, the luxurious tax threshold), and so they had been certainly one of two to be over in 2018 (becoming a member of the Red Sox). As for 2019, their destiny is not but sure. Per the invaluable Cot’s Contracts at Baseball Prospectus, the Nationals are simply barely over the road, however that is an estimated determine. If they’re dominated by MLB to be CBT payers, then it is potential possession will order payroll slashed for 2020. That was reportedly the purpose for 2019 — staying underneath — and if that does not wind up taking place, then it might develop into a tough mandate for GM Mike Rizzo this offseason.
That may be too unhealthy. The Nats are coming off a championship season wherein excessive wage gamers like Scherzer, Corbin, Strasburg, and Rendon had been important to their efforts. These 4 mixed to make greater than $112 million this previous season. Take any certainly one of them off the roster, and it is probably the Nats do not wind up hoisting the trophy. Take into account the 2019 Nationals an object lesson within the worth of paying for the most effective gamers.
They should re-up with Strasburg, who’s reportedly open to doing simply that. Whereas bringing again Rendon appears much less probably, the Nationals want to put in a worthy alternative who suits the objective of constructing a vigorous repeat bid. Josh Donaldson and Mike Moustakas are free brokers, and Kris Bryant could also be among the many needle-moving third basemen accessible in commerce. If the Nats desire to commit their assets elsewhere, then giving the third base job to prime prospect Carter Kieboom is definitely a viable choice.
If that is the case, then discovering an everyday second baseman must be a precedence merchandise. Maybe there’s mutual curiosity in a reunion with Howie Kendrick, who loved certainly one of his greatest offensive seasons at age 35 and naturally authored one of many greatest dwelling runs in franchise historical past. Banking on Kendrick to stay satisfactory defensively is a danger. The free agent market does not supply a lot assist, sadly. One choice is to put in Kieboom because the second baseman and return to the richer crop of accessible third basemen. None of these are going to be nearly as good as Rendon, however funding can reduce the drop-off.
First baseman and franchise icon Ryan Zimmerman is a free agent after the Nats declined their 2020 choice on him. That was the appropriate name, because it appears Zimmerman’s days as a productive hitter, particularly by the requirements of first basemen, are over. Nothing about in-house candidate Jake Noll suggests he is able to producing adequately on the highest degree, so Rizzo might want to look elsewhere. Placing collectively a lower-cost platoon association is definitely a consideration. This the place Kendrick maybe has a task transferring ahead. As famous simply above, he will not be able to pinning down a center infield place now that he is 36 and firmly in decline with the glove. Nevertheless, high quality of contact metrics counsel his work on the plate in 2019 wasn’t a fluke. Deep decline with the bat should still be a methods off for Kendrick, and a task because the Nats’ semi-regular first baseman or, at worse, the right-handed half of a platoon and pinch-hitter of first resort looks as if a path ahead for each side.
On the bullpen entrance, the Nats have exercised their choice on Sean Doolittle, and bringing again Daniel Hudson, who’s now a free agent, is unquestionably in play. Austin Voth can nonetheless be an attention-grabbing arm, and incoming prospects like Wil Crowe and James Bourque may additionally have paths to common roles. The Nats must also be among the many groups with curiosity in free agent lefty Will Smith.
Sure, bringing again Strasburg, signing a top quality infielder, and including a bullpen piece will push the Nats over the CBT line for 2020 and activate one other spherical of penalties (sure, the system is designed to punish groups for investing within the on-field product), however the penalties are overstated. That is particularly the case given how a lot groups make today and, within the Nats’ case, the win-now stream of the roster. CBT penalties are actually extra tidy rationale for slicing prices versus something truly onerous, and it is on the Lerner household to disregard the anti-competitive development to which so many different homeowners are in thrall. Once you share a division with the Braves, Phillies, and Mets, you possibly can’t be passive.
A very good-faith effort to develop into the NL’s first repeat champions for the reason that 1975-76 Reds would require the dedication of assets in Washington. That, although, is what groups who prioritize profitable video games are purported to do. So go and try this.