The Washington Nationals took care of their non-tender decisions early. Actually very early. When the team parted ways with Michael A. Taylor, Roenis Elias, and Javy Guerra in early October, they were essentially done. They could have waited until the 8 pm deadline tonight to non-tender them along with other teams, but created no drama in waiting and allowed those players to find jobs early in the process like Taylor did with the Royals on a one-year deal. Sure, MAT took a paycut from what the Nats paid him in 2020 ($3.325 million), but he has a job.
Yesterday, the Nats even agreed with Joe Ross on a one-year $1.5 million deal for 2021. Ross was the only Nats player listed on MLBTR as a possible non-tender which we were never buying because of the fact that his cost was so reasonable for a back of the rotation pitcher. Sure, there is still the unknown of what Trea Turner will make in 2021 or what the Super-Two deadline is that will determine if Juan Soto made it (which we were told he did) and Wander Suero, we were told that Suero did not meet the cut-off.
Now, the wait-and-see is who will be non-tendered on other teams, and who could be traded. The rumor mill is churning. Kris Bryant is still the biggest name being mentioned in trade rumors.
As far as Nats priorities go, we have checked off quite a few from our original list we published back in September. A few more can be checked off now. Priorities change. Ideas evolve. Budgets move up or down along with the outlook. Besides adding Sam Clay to the bullpen and firming up with Joe Ross, nothing else has been done with player moves. Okay, Yoan Adon and Yasel Antuna were added to the 40-man roster almost two-weeks ago, but not much has happened in the last month. Just a lot of rumors blowing in the wind.
Yesterday in The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal wrote a piece that included a mention that general manager Mike Rizzo was scheduled to speak to team ownership on Tuesday.
We have become so used to the Nats being big spenders since the off-season after 2010 when the team signed Jayson Werth to their largest deal ever at $126 million, at the time. After that, the team signed Max Scherzer to a $210 million deal, and reportedly offered Bryce Harper a $300 million deal that he turned down. Before the 2019 season, the Nats signed Patrick Corbin to a $140 million deal. When the Lerner ownership group wants a player, they have put their money out there. But given the team’s financial losses due to COVID, they are in their own wait-and-see mode.
Did Mike Rizzo talk ownership into a deal or to spend more money? Until we know the salaries of Turner and Soto, we can only estimate the Nats payroll at just about $161 million with five open spots on the roster that will certainly add to that number —unless the actual money they pay to Turner and Soto is less than the numbers we used. That could move the needle on the money they have to spend above or below that figure depending on the actual financial components. MLBTR is projecting much lower amounts for that pair as arb-eligibles than the numbers we used as we wanted to stay more conservative. Remember, we will not know those figures until the players and the team agree on it.
Some have suggested creative ways to save money which include contract extensions with deferrals or even the unthinkable — trading away Max Scherzer. For a trade to occur for Scherzer, he has full no-trade rights as a 10/5 player, and the only way he can be traded is if he agreed to it. The 3-time Cy Young winner is entering his final year of his 7-year contract with the Nats.
This will be like no other non-tender day in baseball history. Many moves have been made, but close to 200 more must be made by the deadline for arb-eligibles. Over the last three years from 2017-2019, the non-tender counts across the MLB totaled an alarmingly large year over year increase with 25, 41 and 53 players non-tendered respectively. If you are into math patterns — and there is nothing to suggest a pattern exists — but if it did — there would be 73 non-tenders in total. That would be nearly 2½ players per team. The Nats took care of their non-tenders early. Now we sit back and watch what the other teams do.
We will try to update news as we have it.