Shockers of today’s Nats roster moves make the non-tender deadline less complicated

The Washington Nationals selected four Rule-5 eligible pitchers for the Nats 40-man roster with DJ Herz being an obvious move along with Mitchell Parker who emerged this week as a near-lock. General Manager Mike Rizzo also added RH reliever Zach Brzykcy who is rehabbing from a UCL surgery as well as RHP Cole Henry who is working his way back from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery.

While all four names were debated over the past few weeks, the biggest surprise per a source is that the Nats could not come to terms with Dominic Smith, and he was DFA’d much like Luke Voit was a year ago. Smith was arbitration-eligible and might have earned about $4.3 million if he took this to an arbitration hearing. Much like Voit last year, Rizzo was not going to chance it and per a source tried to negotiate a deal under $3 million, which obviously did not happen. Also, RHP Cory Abbott was DFA’d, and Andres Machado requested Unconditional Release Waivers to pursue an opportunity in Japan.

Shortly afterward all of the aforementioned roster moves, the Nats also announced that arb-eligible outfielder Victor Robles and reliever Tanner Rainey both came to terms on one-year deals. That gives the team cost certainty with both. It doesn’t guarantee that Robles isn’t traded, but this probably also means he won’t be a DFA. We are waiting on dollar figures for both. Sources told us that if Robles did not come to a contract resolution, he would have met the same fate as Smith.

Here is the list of remaining arb-eligible tender candidates sorted by service time with the MLBTR dollar estimates:

With just those four players remaining on the arb-eligible list, the team will try to get all of them tied up to numbers before the deadline on Friday. We will discuss this more later in the week as the non-tender deadline is on Friday, November 17.

Brzykcy, 24, was part of Spring Training this year, and was shutdown with elbow soreness per a source and later was diagnosed with a torn UCL and had surgery in the second week of April of this year. He is now throwing from 90-feet and could be a participant in Spring Training this year. It is hard to say if the Nats push him in Spring Training or go easy on him given that he will be close to a full-year removed from TJ surgery.

In 2022, Brzykcy went 8–2 with 14 saves and a 1.76 ERA in 51 games across three levels of the Nats’ minor league system. He ranked second in the organization with 14 saves and ranked among all Minor League pitchers (min. 60.0 IP) in opponents’ batting average (3rd, .157), ERA (5th, 1.76) and strikeouts per 9.0 innings (14th, 13.94) in 2022. He was signed as a non-drafted free agent (NDFA) out of Virginia Tech following the 2020 First-Year Player Draft, and he would have been drafted if not for the 5-round draft in that COVID-shortened season.

With Henry, he went from a top prospect to a player that fell out of the Top-10 after he was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome and got surgery last year. At 24 years old, he has pitched to a 3.29 ERA, a .189 opponents’ batting average, 1.02 walks/hits per inning pitched and 11.30 strikeouts per 9.0 innings in 34 games across three professional seasons. He has recorded 141 strikeouts with 39 walks in 112.0 innings pitched since making his debut in 2021. Henry was selected in the second round of the 2020 Draft out of LSU.

The one no-brainer to get a 40-man spot was Herz. He is the youngest of this group of players at just 22, and finished up a successful stint in the Arizona Fall League with a 1-0 record and a 3.71 ERA that also included his selection as a Fall Star. He came over in the trade with the Cubs with shortstop Kevin Made for Jeimer Candelario on July 31, 2023. The lefty known as Davidjohn “DJ” Herz was originally selected by the Chicago Cubs in the eighth round of the 2019 Draft out of Terry Sanford High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He is 10–14 with a 3.64 ERA, a .178 opponents’ batting average and 13.20 strikeouts per 9.0 innings in 74 professional starts. He has a great changeup and good fastball and working on his curveball to give him a three-pitch mix that would work at the MLB level.

It became clearer per sources yesterday that Parker, 24, was looking like a 40-man add, and that came to fruition today. He led Washington’s farm system with 150 strikeouts, and tied for the lead with nine wins, and ranked third in the organization with a .244 opponents’ batting average in 2023. He went 9–7 with a 4.72 ERA in a career-high 28 games (26 starts) between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Rochester. He was an a Nats’ fifth-round draft pick in the 2020 out of San Jacinto (SanJac) Junior College.

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