We are less than 30 hours to September 1, when MLB rosters can expand from 26 players to 28. There has been no chatter as to the identity of the two players the Washington Nationals will call up. There are plenty of candidates. A rule states that teams can only add one pitcher and one position player meaning you cannot use your expanded roster to add two pitchers.
At ESPN, Kiley McDaniel spoke about the new rules in the last collective bargain agreement (CBA) that targeted teams that manipulated player service time. With new incentives, a team that could have the Rookie of the Year, they would gain an extra first first round draft pick as incentive. McDaniel suggests Sept. 1 top prospects who could be called up now, and as long as a batter does not top 130 at-bats to finish the season, they would retain their prospect status, and if they were on the team’s Opening Day roster, they would qualify for the ROY incentive.
McDaniel names James Wood as his №6 to win the ROY, however that covers both leagues that have ROYs. With Dylan Crews slow start in Double-A which is less than two weeks of games, he might not be a call-up candidate, although McDaniel named Crews as a 2024 Rookie of the Year candidate also.
The initial thought was that Tanner Rainey would be the pitcher called up since he has been on his rehab assignments for over 20 days, and the team has to make a decision with him by Sept. 6. Rainey has not been crisp in his return from UCL surgery a year ago.With Josiah Gray looking fatigued, maybe the team adds a spot starter. Even manager Dave Martinez would not commit to Gray making his next start this weekend and said he would be evaluated in his next side session. The team could turn to their 2019 first round pick, Jackson Rutledge, who is on the 40-man roster. He could line up for a spot start this weekend against the Marlins.
Expect the team to either make a waiver claim for a pitcher like Lucas Giolito, or add Rutledge, Thaddeus Ward, or a reliever like Amos Willingham, Cory Abbott, Joe La Sorsa, or Hobie Harris. Those are all pitchers on the 40-man roster. Other than them, the team could choose a pitcher who is not on the 40-man roster like DJ Herz and add a spot for that pitcher — but no other names really stands out. Herz, a lefty, was acquired in the Jeimer Candelario trade with the Cubs. He is Rule-5 eligible and will most likely be added to the 40-man roster this year anyway.
For position players, Wood and Crews are not on the 40-man roster, and the only other candidates appear to be Luis Garcia, Jeter Downs, and Blake Rutherford unless the team went to a player not on the 40-man roster. Of course Downs is not readily available until 10-days has passed from when he was optioned.
My choice would be a waiver claim of former Nats top prospect Giolito and current Nats top prospect Wood. Giolito would give the team length, and also give general manager Mike Rizzo a chance to assess Giolito and possibly extend a contract with him before he is eligible for free agency. Giolito is due $1.7 million approximately if he was claimed by the Nats. With Wood’s ability to play all outfield positions, he could play and add a much needed power bat as the Nats assess him for a possible roster spot for Opening Day of 2024.