For baseball as a whole, we are still in the same spot we have been in since December 29th when the only Top-10 rated free agent was signed. Wade Davis is the only Top-1o free agent who has signed this off-season. When December opened up with Shohei Ohtani to the Angels and Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees, it looked like the Hot Stove was going to be piping hot. Instead, it has been cold as ice ever since besides a few puffs of smoke.
On the other hand, the Washington Nationals had few moves to make this off-season. There was very little that Mike Rizzo had to accomplish, and he did some of that with familiar faces bringing back Brandon Kintzler for Brandon Kintzler to shore up the bullpen, and he brought back Howie Kendrick for Howie Kendrick as the last position player for the Nationals’ bench.
The only true outside move to the projected “active” roster was Matt Adams who was acquired to replace Adam Lind. That has been it other than adding Triple-A depth with re-acquiring players like Tommy Milone, Edwin Jackson, and Ryan Raburn.
The one glaring need seems to be who replaces Joe Ross in the starting rotation as Ross is recovering from ulnar collateral ligament replacement (TJ) surgery. Right now A.J. Cole is penciled in as the 5th starter in the Nationals rotation; however, there was a long debate yesterday as to concerns over that move. One other ongoing concern is the catcher’s position. Clearly, Matt Wieters is the presumptive starting catcher for the Nationals and many have been concerned for years as to the weakness in the back-up catcher’s role which had been filled by Jose Lobaton and now goes to Pedro Severino.
We had reported the Nationals on-going interest in J.T. Realmuto, and so far the Nationals have not been able to pry him away from the Marlins. There are still catchers on the free agent market like Alex Avila who could be an upgrade over Severino and share the catcher’s role much more efficiently with Wieters. If Avila’s asking price drops, that could be a match and the same for the trade demands for Realmuto.
For a starting pitcher, we reached out to some of our sources to inquire if Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo is still looking for depth. We were told over the weekend that the Nats’ GM was close to signing another reclamation pitcher to a Minor League deal. That would be significant as the Nationals 40-man roster is at full capacity. The signing did not happen for whatever reason. But we learned from another source this morning that Mike Rizzo is still actively looking to acquire a proven arm for the starting rotation if the right deal can be made.
There have been plenty of starting pitchers names mentioned for the Nats led by Boras client Jake Arrieta who is still on the market. With Yu Darvish as the other top free agent pitcher available, there has not seemed to be a match. Lance Lynn would seem a fit with his old pitching coach Derek Lilliquist although the issue there is like Arrieta that Lynn would cost the Nats two forfeited draft picks due to the new qualified offer rules. The same issue for Alex Cobb. who was “Q.O.’d” by Tampa. Another former Lilliquist pupil available is Jaime Garcia, and we have mentioned Jason Vargas as another prominent lefty available in free agency. The Nationals front office has a larger list. We will wait and see on this. Expect something to get done.
As many know, Mike Rizzo operates many times in the shadows of secrecy which sometimes make it seem like he is not doing anything. That indubitably is not the case. The Nationals front office and analytics group are working a puzzle here to find the last few pieces to complete the roster.