The Washington Nationals continue to trim their roster as Opening Day is nine days away. Washington’s management has optioned OF Stone Garrett and Jose Ferrer to Triple-A Rochester. Both of them were considered strong possibilities for the roster just a month ago, but both underwhelmed in their numerous opportunities they had. These two players also had the advantage of being on the 40-man roster — but in the end, it did not matter. At the same time, INF Leonel Valera was sent to Minor League camp. None of the moves were shocking, but all three players could be called up to Washington during the season.
Nationals skipper Dave Martinez confirmed that Alex Call would be the Nationals’ fourth outfielder to start the season, signaling Garrett would either be cut or named the fifth outfielder. It looks like the team will go with four outfielders and use Joey Meneses and Ildemaro Vargas as the emergency fifth outfielders if ever needed.
Meanwhile, most Nationals roster battles are settled while two questions loom. Who get’s the final bench spot and the final bullpen spots? Jeter Downs, Matt Adams, and Michael Chavis are all battling for the last bench spot. There are several names for the final four bullpen spots including Anthony Banda, Alex Colome, Paolo Espino, Hobie Harris, Andres Machado, Wily Peralta, Mason Thompson, and Thaddeus Ward.
“It’s still up in the air,” Martinez said. “We’ve still got some games left. As you know, we can only carry 26. That doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t like the guys we don’t carry. There’s always opportunity. But we haven’t made any decisions yet.”
The Nationals signed Garrett to an MLB contract during the offseason as a free agent. The 27-year-old entered the Big Leagues as an eighth-round draft pick. The Marlins drafted Garrett developing him in the minor leagues for six years. Garrett never had the opportunity to make his MLB debut in Miami and was claimed by the Diamondbacks before the 2021 season started. Garrett spent his 2022 year in the Triple-A system, hitting .275/.332/.568 over 103 games. Garrett got his opportunity later in the season and played 27 games with the Diamondbacks. Garrett is under the Nationals’ control through the 2028 season and should start the season as the primary center fielder in Triple-A.
For the bullpen, Ferrer didn’t have a high chance to make the team initially in camp as a lefty reliever. He was only added to the 40-man roster to protect him for the Rule 5 draft. However, Ferrer’s chance improved as the Nationals didn’t bring in a lot of left-hand pitchers to camp. Ferrer has had an uneven camp, recording a 1.93 ERA while allowing seven hits and one run across 4.2 innings, but that 1.741 WHIP shows that he put too much traffic on-base. Last season, Ferrer didn’t rise above Double-A last season but pitched 65.1 innings, recording a 2.48 ERA. If Sean Doolittle can’t get healthy and re-claim his spot in the bullpen, the Nationals may opt to select Ferrer contract.
As mentioned, the Nationals also assigned Valera to a minor league camp. Valera was a new face to the Nationals, as he was signed this offseason. Valera played with the Dodgers last season in High-A and Double-A. The 23-year-old posted a .288/.361/.472 in 527 plate appearances, playing 130 games. Valera could be called up later in the year, depending on the health and performance of other Nationals players.
The Nationals have to pare down their roster to 26 players by March 30th for the Opening Day roster. There could certainly be roster manipulation to keep nine relievers and four starters for the first six days of the season before a fifth starter is needed and as we have seen before, there are those type of moves that are made, but for now, Chad Kuhl appears to be the presumptive fifth starter when needed. The rest will become clearer soon.