As the clock ticks towards the opening of Spring Training camp, the rumors just will not go away about the Nats attached to a marquee player. Once again Bob Nightengale is tweeting about a Kris Bryant trade and mentioned the Washington Nationals. The same people who were so wrong about the Nats and Josh Donaldson are at it again. If you believe there is a chance because there is a need, then look around because Fangraphs believes the Nationals greatest needs were at other position where the Nats are the weakest at first base (7th worst) and catcher (6th worst). Maybe the Nats should have been trying to get Brandon Belt (+2.0 WAR) in a trade with the Giants and Yasmani Grandal (+4.9 WAR) in free agency.
Last year, general manager Mike Rizzo went with the sum of the parts theory in rebuilding his roster after Bryce Harper departed, and it worked brilliantly. He promoted Victor Robles to the outfield, made the largest pitcher splash with Patrick Corbin in free agency, upgraded the catcher’s spot with two players in Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes and signed Brian Dozier to a big deal at second base.
This year the task was similar in roster construction in how do you rebuild with Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, and Howie Kendrick going to free agency? Rizzo answered by re-signing the majority of his departed free agents from the postseason roster while adding Starlin Castro and Eric Thames. The results on paper were underwhelming to many even though the Nats broke the bank to re-sign Strasburg. While Castro moved the needle and shows significant upside potential, Rizzo re-signed Yan Gomes (+0.9 WAR) at catcher and Thames (+0.4) at first base and plans to use Asdrubal Cabrera and top prospect Carter Kieboom at third base. By all projections, third base might be fine in relative terms, but the Nationals rankings as mentioned at first base and catcher are near the bottom in the Majors. Did Rizzo miss opportunities or does he see what others don’t?
Maybe the projections of those rankings will be wrong. Maybe once again, Rizzo will look like a genius. Time will tell, and at this point you almost have to see how this circa 2020 team plays coming out of the gates before you judge the full product. Just like previous years, Rizzo has made adjustments leading up to the trade deadline. He could do that again this year.
This could be the case that 2020 is a year to see who you are and then decide at the July 31 trade deadline to see who you want to be.