The Washington Nationals have clear priorities for next year, and we took a deep dive into a Top-1o. We kind of rolled more names into the list, and sure, things changed quickly when manager Dave Martinez opted to make changes on his coaching staff.
Today as you know, the Nationals extended the contract of Josh Harrison as he was technically still under team control and as such was not a free agent. Also in the previous two weeks, the Nationals DFA’d several players making the roster much more streamlined.
Not originally a Top-10 priority, but it is up there on the list, the Nats must add a new hitting coach to replace Kevin Long … unless the team wisely comes to terms with KLong which seems like a long-shot at this point. This week they named Jim Hickey as the new pitching coach. The team will also need to name a new third base coach after the parting of ways with Chip Hale.
So here is the updated original Top-10 priorites:
#1 Pick up manager Dave Martinez‘s option for 2021. While some want a long-term contract, ownership might want to wait for that. Davey has earned his 2021 season at the very least.✓
- #2 Extend Trea Turner for the long-term. We have been writing about this for about five years now, and this can’t wait any longer. That would entail buying out his last two years of arbitration and the first 4-7 years beyond that. Once that is done, general manager Mike Rizzo will know what he has to spend in free agency.
- #3 get a righty bat for the lineup behind Juan Soto. Unless you want Soto walked 150+ times next year, you need a deterrent. Putting a name to a face, someone like Adam Duvall would fit the need especially if the NL has a DH next year or Soto shifts to rightfield. There will be many names that will emerge after non-tenders as well as trade candidates as that batter could be a third baseman and not necessarily a corner outfielder especially if the lefty Kyle Schwarber is non-tendered as we think he will. The jury is still out on Kris Bryant as a non-tender but I would pass on him as a trade target for sure.
- #4 a 4th starting pitcher in the rotation to add a good arm in Anibal Sanchez‘s spot for the 2021 rotation. One name that fits is Kevin Gausman. There will be others as we covered yesterday: THE LIST IS LONG!
- #5 the team needs to upgrade the catcher defense while adding a bat who can drive in some runs to pair up with Yan Gomes. One name who wouldn’t cost much and could play up in Nats Park is Curt Casali. Nothing big here to see. Other names could emerge. Expect the J.T. Realmuto rumors to persist but he will most likely go back to Philly.
- #6 an upgrade at first base has been needed for years. From 2014 to 2020 with the exception of 2017, the Nationals have been near the bottom of offensive production at first base. One suggestion is a “change of scenery” trade for Josh Bell. That could make sense and cost mid-level prospect(s) as Pitt looks to lessen their payroll. Bell has two years of team-control remaining. Because Bell is a switch-hitter, he could be the bat behind Soto and fill that need in the #3 priority.
#7 Extend Josh Harrison now and build a bench around him and Andrew Stevenson.✓ #8 Make the difficult decisions to non-tender Michael A. Taylor, Roenis Elias, and Javy Guerra.Decline the options of Eric Thames, Anibal Sanchez, Howie Kendrick and Adam Eaton. It is time as difficult as it must be. If you can trade Taylor before the non-tender deadline to Houston, go for it. Also, there could be the opportunity to bring back some of these players on “team friendly” deals.
- #9 the analytics group and scouts have to fix Victor Robles. He came into the season bulked up and standing up on the plate and had early success. Then he was hit on the wrist and backed off the plate like he did last year and his offensive stats spiraled downwards. Get him that “Thames” armor, step back up to the plate where you’re successful and protect your arms and wrist and hands with extra padding/armor otherwise keep your eyes open for another CF if one is available.
- #10 the team will need a lefty reliever. Long-term the answer should be a player from within the system like Matt Cronin. But for now, find that reliever on the free agent market. It won’t be Sam Freeman since he had TJ surgery.
Yes, it is going to be difficult to part ways with so many players who were part of the success of the 2019 World Championship team. The Nats got real old right in front of our eyes. The team has a chance to get younger, more athletic, better defense, and actually create some flexibility with the payroll. There of course will be roster competition from players like Jake Noll, Luis Garcia, and Carter Kieboom, but we don’t expect any of them to make the Opening Day roster.