There has been a strange dynamic between manager Dave Martinez and center fielder Victor Robles for a couple of seasons. The Nats’ manager had no issue with publicly criticizing Robles — and honestly, the criticism had been warranted….but don’t you do that in private? Robles pulled a stunt where he missed a catch at the wall and was not playing as deep as he was instructed. The following inning he moved to within 15 feet of the warning track to stick it to his manager. The next day would be his last of the season on June 20. Things got so contentious in his final days that pitcher, MacKenzie Gore, yelled at Robles for missing a routine flyball.
We may have seen Robles in a Nationals’ uniform for the final time. He has an inexpensive $3.3 million team option for the 2024 season, but that might not be enough incentive for general manager Mike Rizzo to keep him. Robles only appeared in 36 games this season. Could Rizzo be trying to trade him? That is another option even though Rizzo wouldn’t really get anything of value in return. Robles needs a change of scenery. He has the tools — he just doesn’t use them all with the Nats and would be attractive to a team that saw his .299 batting average this season with his .750 OPS. This year’s issue was his defense tool was not good at a -3.0 OAA, and one of the worst in the Majors. Extrapolate that for a full season and that’s a -13.5. Not good. Maybe his back issue that landed him on the IL was the culprit — but his offense was fine. You just never know with Robles.
Yesterday, the Nationals made three more cuts from their 40-man roster as they DFA’d Michael Chavis, Hobie Harris, and Blake Rutherford. They all passed through waivers unclaimed and Chavis and Rutherford both opted to become free agents. Both could be back with the Nats in Spring Training on the same minor league deals they signed before last season, but first, both will look around for their best deals.
The Nats currently have 36 players on their 40-man roster. By five days after the World Series, the team will need to add back all of the 60-day IL players they plan to keep. While Carl Edwards Jr. will head to free agency, Robles is a question mark, and Stephen Strasburg is contemplating retirement, the team will at least need to make room for Riley Adams, Cade Cavalli, and Stone Garrett. All expectations are that Strasburg will be added back to the roster if he hasn’t formally retired. Those are at least four spots and five if Robles is added back. If five 60-day IL spots are added back, then Rizzo has another roster spot he needs to open up.
Technically the Nats could reject Robles team option, and he would still remain under team control in his final year of arbitration. MLBTR believes his arb number would actually be $600,000 under his team option price. So yes, the Nats could still turn down his option and move forward with him back on the 40-man roster.
Then on November 15, teams must submit reserve lists of players on the minor league rosters who will be protected from the Rule-5 draft, to be held at the Winter Meetings on December 6. Rizzo will have to open up a roster spot for DJ Herz who is expected to be protected. Holden Powell is another name in the mix for a roster spot. Three other names are Mitchell Parker, Cole Henry and Andry Lara in that next tier. Every player from the Rule-5 eligibles that is protected will mean Rizzo has to open up 40-man roster spots for them, and that would mean potentially more DFA’s.
Of course as free agency and waiver claims are going on, any of those will require roster spots if the free agents require MLB deals. There are certainly names like Cory Abbott, Roddery Munoz, Thaddeus Ward, and Amos Willingham from the pitching ranks as well as Jake Alu, Jeremy De La Rosa, Jeter Downs and Israel Pineda as position players who could all be DFAs. You would think that Andres Machado and Alex Call are bubble players going into Spring Training and could be cuts. It is also decision time for Joan Adon and Carter Kieboom as they are both out of options like Machado too. Call has remaining options.
The team has six arbitration eligible players plus Robles. Five players all appear to be locks for contract tenders by the November 17 deadline with possibly Dominic Smith going the Luke Voit route of either agreeing to Rizzo’s salary offer or getting a non-tender which was the road travelled by Voit at the tender deadline.
Here is the list of arb-eligible tender candidates sorted by service time and the MLBTR estimates:
- Dominic Smith (5.081): $4.3MM
- Victor Robles (5.033): $2.7MM
- Tanner Rainey (4.127): $1.5MM
- Hunter Harvey (4.047): $2.2MM
- Lane Thomas (4.014): $7MM
- Kyle Finnegan (4.000): $5.1MM
- Luis Garcia (2.142): $2.4MM
Now the Nats can add back Cavalli and Strasburg to the 60-day IL once full Spring Training starts. That will open up two roster spots at that point. The roster shuffle is a complicated dance when you start getting to names like Robles, Kieboom, Smith, Machado and Call, and even Pineda and Ward. Many decisions are made when a GM believes he can pass a player through waivers and keep him on the roster back in Triple-A.
Did we miss any names?