After tonight, football is over and baseball takes over the sports landscape for many. Morityema, the god of the season of Spring watches over us in this fertile time. In Florida, the senses are piqued. The feel of the sun on our skin is different in Palm Beach County. Visions of baseball fields filled with hope. The fresh cut grass, hot dogs grilling, popcorn popping, and the smell of fresh leather from those new fielding gloves are a system overload on the olfaction. With that first bite into a Spring Training hot dog washed down with a craft beer is nirvana even after your doctor told you at your last physical to stay away from those types of foods. This is the season of optimism where we all can indulge at the beginning and in moderation.
Hope Springs Eternal is something I’ve written about in Spring Training for decades. Hope Springs Eternal was originally a poem of a different meaning, and it’s been a title of books. To me, the eternal meaning of the years as they go by forever never changes what’s in our hearts, and each year you have the new seasons and every Spring we find new hope. If we lose our hope — we have lost our dreams. This year starts those new dreams, and the games are played on the field of dreams. The paper projections will get replaced by actual results.
Hope will come in different sizes and shapes……..the unexpected is part of what makes sports the greatest reality show. We have the optimism that anything is possible. The magic of 2019 is the reminder of that for Washington Nationals fans.
There is work to be done. A roster still to be built even though we know at least 85 percent of the answers. This is where the hardest worker and the top performers must prove they are not Fool’s Gold. There is often a mirage in Spring Training. We harken back to the story of Jayson Werth when the Blue Jays traded him in favor of a Spring Training standout which is the cautionary tale of the trappings of relying on any Spring Training statistic. This time in West Palm Beach is more important for the process than the results. It is evaluating versus relying on the statistics accumulated in March.
Additionally, there is always the chance that general manager Mike Rizzo could make a February or March move. Rizzo did that the last week of February 2017 when he signed catcher Matt Wieters to a $21 million deal. It felt like a rescue deal to an agent who overplayed his hand and needed a favor to get a former All-Star a job. Four months earlier, there were much better options on a catching acquisition. There is a lesson to be learned about piecing together an intricate puzzle.
With a 40-man roster standing at 39 players, there certainly is a spot left for one more MLB deal. Nothing would stop Rizzo from cutting a 40-man player to make room for more than one on the roster. Time is ticking at camp officially opens in 10-days.
The agents at GSE Worldwide, before mergers and acquisitions, were once known as the Legacy Agency which was a powerhouse in baseball, and according to their website it looks like they only have two players with a chance at the big leagues. One is Tyler Anderson and the other is Justin Turner. Both are free agents. Turner is a fit for the Nats if the dollars can work. The clock is ticking on teams, players, and agents. Trades are still possible although rare at this time of year.
At big league camp, the Nationals should have close to 60 players and probably over that. It is looking like the largest camp the Nats have assembled. The players who are not on the 40-man roster are categorized as non-roster invitees (NRIs). Expect veterans like Aaron Barrett, Yasmany Tomas, Paolo Espino, Javy Guerra, Jefry Rodriguez, Luis Avilan, Welington Castillo, Blake Swihart, Jordy Mercer to be NRIs and then some of the top prospects like Jackson Rutledge, Cade Cavalli, Cole Henry, Tim Cate, Matt Cronin, Jackson Cluff, Israel Pineda, and add in some extra catchers like Raudy Read and Jakson Reetz. Remember, players on the 40-man are part of big league camp so top prospects like Yasel Antuna, Seth Romero, and Tres Barrera get automatic invites and same with Rogelio Armenteros, Steven Fuentes, Joan Adon, and Sam Clay who we will see for the first time in Nats camp. Not officially on the roster, but expect Gerardo Parra to be an NRI at big league camp also.
This is an exciting time for many. Most of those players who do not need travel visas are already in Florida as they have paid for their Florida housing for the month of February. The competition will be vying for the few open spots there as essentially, 22 of the 26 spots on the Opening Day roster are all but guaranteed subject to health.
Hope Springs Eternal.