Barring a 13-0 miraculous finish for the Nats, they will be spending October to January wondering what went wrong with the team that most likely will feature two Top-10 MVP candidates and none ranking in the Cy Young voting for the first time in Max Scherzer‘s tenure with the Nats, and the first time for him since he was a Tiger in 2013.
“I’m not here to be critical about the team. We’re not playing as well as we’d like,” said Scherzer, who is a future Hall-of-Famer and 3-time Cy Young awardee. “But the moment you say that, you better look yourself in the mirror, and ask: ‘How are you doing?’”
Yes, everyone needs to look in their own mirror. A few will like what they see, and most won’t. Many players sealed their fate on their future with the Nats, and we expect none of the players with team options will return on those deals.
“The biggest thing and I tell these kids, ‘You have to create your own identity. You gotta know who you are. What type of player you are. What type of hitter you are. What type of pitcher you are.’ ” manager Dave Martinez said.
We have seen some players progress in this truncated season beyond Soto and Turner who are clearly in the MVP mix, although neither are expected to win when you play for a last place team. Names like Kyle Finnegan and Kyle McGowin were unknown to casual fans, and these players showed they belong. In addition, Luis Garcia will make it hard on Rizzo to conjure up any thoughts of starting him in the Minors in 2021. Tanner Rainey stepped up as a legitimate closer candidate, but unfortunately, not one of the starting pitchers who were given an opportunity to grab a spot in the grouping of Austin Voth, Erick Fedde, and Wil Crowe.
As of today, the Nats starting pitchers don’t have an ERA below Scherzer’s pedestrian 4.04. In fact, the team average ERA for the starters is 5.72. Now you know why this team is 18-29. The starters’ record is even worse at 8-22. This team was built by general manager Mike Rizzo around starting pitching. This team cannot win this way unless you outslug the other team, and that is not the DNA of this team. There have not been any come-from-behind wins after the seventh inning, but yesterday showed they have fight in them with 3 wins in extra inning games for a .750 winning percentage in that new format.
Opposing teams have consistently pitched around Juan Soto, and you need more offensive weapons besides the 21-year-old and shortstop Trea Turner. Both players have been shining stars and rank in the elite top-10 in WAR.
“Show up to the field and work and be particular in what you’re trying to do, each and every day,” Turner said of his approach of not giving at-bats away. “Take it real seriously. It’s a lot of mental. Not giving anything away.”
It was good to see the youngest player in the MLB, Luis Garcia, hit the game winner yesterday in the 10th inning. Even before that, we have been penciling in Garcia at second base for 2021, and shifting Starlin Castro to third base. That most likely will place Carter Kieboom back in the Minors to start the 2021 season. Nothing is guaranteed on Garcia who must improve his batting against lefty pitching where he is batting .172 and .333 against right-handers. Overall, he has a
The roster for 2021 should return 11 pitchers, and even though we have 12 names on the graphic below, we believe the team will carry one lefty on the squad and the team controls Sam Freeman and Roenis Elias who are both on the IL. In addition, the team could bring back Sean Doolittle as a free agent. The most intriguing name is Matt Cronin who is not on the 40-man roster and was the lefty closer at Arkansas.
Clearly the team will be in search for a fourth starter for the rotation, and they will hope that Stephen Strasburg returns to form after his carpal tunnel neuritis surgery, and Scherzer and Patrick Corbin pitch to expectations. In addition, Joe Ross is expected to return after his 2020 opt-out.
For the position players, first base must be fixed, and team will need to find a starting rightfielder and a catcher to complement Yan Gomes.
We have clearly made arbitration estimates for players like Soto and Turner, and the hope is that Trea will be extended in a long-term deal. With nearly $50 million cleared under the cap, that money will go quick if Turner gets a long-term deal plus filling spots for the 4th starter, rightfield, catcher, and first baseman as well as a lefty in the bullpen and bench spots.
The great unknown is whether fans will return for 2021, and what the payroll budget will be set at for the 2021 season. For the past five years, Rizzo has been able to spend to the CBT and even beyond.