Where do the #Nats go from here?

With Josh Bell, Kyle Schwarber, and Josh Harrison all signed, what moves will Washington Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo have up his winter sleeves? With a 40-man roster showing five vacancies, we can expect at least five moves and most likely more moves on the minor league side after the international signings become official on Friday and Riz adds more non-roster invitees to his spring training roster. The issue at-hand, if Fangraphs is your guide, is that they are projecting the Nats for only 84 wins today, and if there are only two Wild Card spots, the Nats would not make the postseason. 

This current roster could certainly out-perform above the Fangraphs projections. But adding some more upgrades to the roster can only help. Fangraphs has the Braves as the second Wild Card team at 87 wins. You would want to get this roster on paper at 88 wins or more. Manager Dave Martinez already revealed his thoughts over the weekend on his lineup based on the current roster as he said this is how he would write his lineup card now:

  1. SS — Trea Turner RH
  2. RF — Juan Soto LH
  3. 1B — Josh Bell SH
  4. LF — Kyle Schwarber LH
  5. 2B — Starlin Castro RH
  6. C — Yan Gomes RH
  7. CF — Victor Robles RH
  8. 3B — Carter Kieboom RH
  9. Starting Pitcher

Yes, Davey is once again showing early faith in Carter Kieboom at third base. This time you hope the third time is the charm. But there certainly could be more moves to be made. For now, the Nats’ skipper said he is very happy with the Bell and Schwarber acquisitions.

“I’ve always loved him. … He is the hardest working kid I’ve ever met. He just wants to get better,” Martinez said of Schwarber on MLB Network Radio to Jim Bowden over the weekend. “We got an early Christmas gift with Josh Bell, and then now we just added Schwarber. … With that being said, Riz is always busy. He’s always looking to make us better. We communicate quite a bit throughout the week, and there is still a lot of available players out there.”

Based on the today’s roster, we think the lineup could look like this:

  1. SS — Trea Turner RH
  2. RF — Juan Soto LH
  3. 1B — Josh Bell SH
  4. LF — Kyle Schwarber LH
  5. 3B — Starlin Castro RH
  6. C — Yan Gomes RH
  7. 2B — Luis Garca LH
  8. CF — Victor Robles RH
  9. Starting Pitcher

Of course we don’t write the lineup card and Davey does. But we wanted more left-hamded symmetry, and the only difference is our lineup has Castro shifted to third base and Garcia at second base because he should platoon there given that he hit .323 last year against right-handed pitching. You could backup Garcia with either Carter Kieboom at second base or Josh Harrison to really turn second base into a position of strength. With the Schwarber acquisition, Andrew Stevenson, gets moved to more of a bench role and defensive replacement but also consider him to get some centerfield starts. Our lineup has more righty/lefty symmetry also in this approach.

But mostly, we hope there is enough cash left in the budget to sign a new third baseman, backup catcher, and a very capable right-handed outfielder to fill the fourth outfield role from the bench. Also, another starting pitcher would be a nice add.

“Mike is always looking to make us better,” Martinez said. “We’re constantly talking. There’s so many available relievers and players. Good players still out there.  I like where we’re going. I like where we’re headed. … We’re always looking to get better. I like we’re at right now. I’m looking forward to getting to Spring Training and getting them ready for the season.”

You get the sense that there could be one or more big moves coming if they are budget friendly. Perhaps a multi-year deal with backloaded cash would do it. We have the AAV salaries at $177 million today. Going over $180 million is a certainty, but will they go past the $190 million mark that we discussed back on November 3rd?

Part of the analysis on needs has to be to look at the competition in the NL East because you face the Mets, Braves, Phillies, and Marlins in a combined 76 games which is 46.9% of the regular season schedule.

One of our readers (who wants to remain anonymous) sent me an analysis of the opposing NL East starters. The detail was excellent and insightful in his analysis. Looking at lefty starters projected, the Braves have two (Max Fried, Drew Smyly), the Mets have one (David Peterson) possibly until Noah Syndergaard is activated, the Phillies have none, and the Marlins look to have one or two. So these will be very right-handed starting pitching staffs, and in the bullpens the Braves look to have three lefties, the Mets might have one or two, and the others will have two or three.

Analytically, you would want a left-handed dominant lineup with a right-handed dominant bench. DChamps gave us a look at possible third baseman:

Third basemen free agents with 2019/2020 combined WAR and batting hand:

DJ LeMahieu (32 years old, 7.8 WAR) RH
Justin Turner (36, 4.7) RH
Tommy La Stella (31, 3.2) LH
Hanser Alberto (28, 2.5) RH
Eric Sogard (34, 2.3) LH

Third basemen potential trades with 2019/2020 combined WAR and batting hand:

Nolan Arenado (29 years old, 6.9 WAR) RH
Jose Ramirez (28, 6.7) SH
Eugenio Suarez (29, 5.6) RH
Kris Bryant (29, 5.3) RH
Kyle Seager (33, 4.5) LH

This list is just one way to go as you could ultimately add a second baseman and shift that player or move Castro to third base. Marcus Semien, Didi Gregorius, Kolten Wong, and Cesar Hernandez were all names mentioned. We continue to mention Kevin Pillar and Adam Duvall as right-handed fourth outfielders, and lefty catcher Jason Castro as well as Tyler Flowers.

Adding to the starting rotation is perhaps the toughest call. Jake Odorizzi has been at the top of our wish list, but certainly there are others who will become available. While it appears per Martinez that Joe Ross will be in the starting rotation, there has been little chatter on Erick Fedde and Austin Voth who were both part of the 2020 starting rotation at times.

Spring Training camps are set to open the week of February 14 unless MLB delays it. So we are just over a month away, and last week we reported that Spring Training tickets for the Nats and Astros were going on-sale tomorrow to season ticket holders as an exclusive offer. Keep in mind that the FITTEAM complex will be reducing attendance to provide social distancing.

Real baseball could be getting close!

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