There was little activity yesterday after a lot of action at the Winter Meetings which are officially over for this offseason even though we are not even technically in the winter months. The Nationals, Yankees, and the Angels spent big money, and their deals for respectively for Stephen Strasburg, Gerrit Cole, and Anthony Rendon were all record breaking deals. In each deal, the runner-up seemed far behind leading to speculation that teams were just bidding against themselves.
As Alex Chappell quipped on Twitter, the big winner of the Winter Meetings was in fact Scott Boras. He wrote deals that in total reached nearly $900,000. In hindsight, all of those deals will be judged, and we will see how they hold up over the test of time.
Winner: Scott Boras https://t.co/Dbbh5ad0pY
— Alex Chappell (@AlexChappell) December 12, 2019
But there is still work to be done. The rumor mill is flooded with hot takes. We reported that general manager Mike Rizzo will explore the trade market for third basemen, and the Nationals are also tied in rumors to Josh Donaldson. and we believe that Rizzo has spoken to Donaldson’s agent although no formal offer has been made. There has to be other angles, directions, and alternatives, and maybe the answer is to take a step back and build up the remaining weak points in the bullpen, second base, first base and of course third base by adding more solid players instead of dumping all of the remaining payroll on one player for third base.
There has to be more ways than just one to meet the ultimate goal which is building a winning team while keeping an eye on the future. That is what Rizzo always says that you have to build for today while making sure you can win in the future.
BULLPEN: The Nationals bullpen has plenty of players under team control but so far there is no clear set-up man to bridge the gap from middle relief to Sean Doolittle. Sure, Rizzo says a healthy Hunter Strickland and Roenis Elias will anchor the back of the bullpen but neither were particularly good in their Nats uniforms although the sample sizes are small. There is also returning relievers like Tanner Rainey and Wander Suero, who are candidates for setup men but wouldn’t we all feel comfortable with a proven setup man? In addition, Erick Fedde, Austin Voth and Joe Ross are all out of options and two of those three players could find themselves in the bullpen as we expect one of them to be the #5 pitcher in the rotation. The Nats also added Kyle Finnegan who has never pitch in the big leagues. One name we mentioned as attached to the Nats is a familiar name, Daniel Hudson, who a source told us as conversations with Hudson’s agent, BB Abbott of Jet Sports Management where they also represent Yan Gomes and (see below) Kyle Seager.
FIRST BASE: The Nationals have Howie Kendrick back and most evaluators feel he should less of second base and more of first base due to his lack of range. The Nats have the flexibility to play Howie Kendrick at first base and then find a partner to take playing time at first base so the team could look to switch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera who played well at first base in limited action or Rizzo could go outside for a left-handed first baseman like Eric Thames, Mitch Moreland or the switch-hitting Justin Smoak who are all free agents as well as Matt Adams. Could the Nationals look to add more WAR through a trade with Cleveland for Carlos Santana or see if they could get Dominic Smith from the Mets? Then there is the ever popular Ryan Zimmerman who is hoping to play one more season for the Nationals but his injury history is well-documented and he has missed substantial time with his plantar fasciitis as well as general wear and tear. While Zimmerman would come back on an inexpensive deal, is it time just to bring him back in a different capacity in the front office?
SECOND BASE: Just like first base, the Nationals can fill second base from Kendrick and look to re-sign Asdrubal Cabrera, but also look to Carter Kieboom to add some youth and athleticism to the mix if he earns a spot in Spring Training. As we wrote about previously, Fangraphs is bullish on Kieboom and project him at a +2.4 WAR. He is now the organization’s top position prospect, and gives manager Dave Martinez positional flexibility along with the re-signed Wilmer Difo who also is not a “lock” to make the roster. There are certainly other names depending on the budget. Cesar Hernandez is now a free agent, and there is Jordy Mercer too. Hernandez is another switch-hitter and could add to the team speed. The list is very long on second baseman which includes Eric Sogard and Starlin Castro. This is probably the deepest position in free agency.
THIRD BASE: With the unofficial signing of Rendon, the Nats have to pencil in a player there for the first time in six years. The Nats have been linked to top free agent Josh Donaldson who is projected to make $25 million a year on a 4-year deal if you believe the latest rumors. The other area would be the cost of trades for Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado, Jose Ramirez, Rafael Devers, Hunter Dozier, Eduardo Escobar and others. Most of those players would bot be viable trades for a variety of reasons and one intriguing name mentioned to us by a source was a possible salary dump candidate, Kyle Seager. His 2.9 WAR and 110 wRC+ in only 106 games is nearly a 4.0 WAR if he was able to play 145 games. The third baseman free agent market is not stellar past Donaldson with names like Maikel Franco in that next tier, so the Nats could look to a second baseman with third base experience to get creative. There are no easy solutions filling the vacant cleats of Anthony Rendon.
We are about 60 days from the opening of Spring Training camp and while time is feeling short, there are still dozens of viable choices for Rizzo to go in to fill in this roster.