Happy New Year and much work ahead

Happy New Year, and we can finally say “last season” and “last year” when we refer to the 2023 season. In some aspects, it was a forgettable season for the Washington Nationals — and in others — there were positives to build on after beating all projections with a 71-win team last year. While nobody is thinking the Nats are a playoff contender for 2024, manager Dave Martinez made it clear that he wanted a chance to contend this season. Much of that is intertwined with the final roster he is given.

“… we have a chance to win here, and get back to where we need to be, and that’s to be in the playoffs.”

” … tack on some more wins and get to those playoffs. …”

” … and be ready to go with [the goal to] try to get back into playoff contention.”

— manager Dave Martinez said

Contention? A whole lot would have to go right for that to happen. This season’s roster is still not complete, and we will wait for the the final touches bestowed upon the 26-man roster going north from Spring Training.

The 2024 roster will be set by general manager Mike Rizzo. His stated goals, made during this offseason, have not yet been met — but there is still time from now until the 40+ days when pitchers and catchers start arriving in West Palm Beach. Opening Day is less than 90 days away in Cincinnati.

“… We’re looking for pitching, starting pitching and relief pitching. You can never have enough of it. We’d like to find a bat to help that group of young hitters.”

“I think we’re going to be aggressive again this [offseason] looking for a bat that can play the corner infield, and be it third base or first base or DH or left field, or a combination of all three of those, and then we’ll resort back to getting more pitching.”

— Rizzo said this offseason

So far, no starting pitcher has been signed to an MLB deal by the Nats during this offseason. Rizzo did sign Dylan Floro as a relief pitcher, and not sure if signing “a bat” would be Nick Senzel — but truthfully, we hope there is another “legit” bat to come. Yes, Senzel can torch left-handed pitching, however, his numbers against righties has not been impressive. The team really needs a bat that can scare right-handed pitching — and unless Rizzo expects that to be top prospect James Wood, we just don’t see a new acquisition who can do that to this point.

If you go by FanGraphs today, they have Wood, Brady House, and Dylan Crews all making their MLB debuts this year. Unfortunately, they have Crews at a -0.2 WAR, Wood at 0.0 WAR, and House at +0.1. That is basically saying the Nats’ top prospect triumvirate will make no impact in 2024. The optimist would say this is where the Nats could get a huge boost if this trio of key pieces of the future of the Nats’ MLB roster actually rakes for the team.

If the Nats prospects do show up big, that would be very reminiscent of what the Reds did with their young rookies last season led by Matt McLain, Spencer Steer, and Elly De La Cruz as they combined for a +7.0 WAR. Imagine if the Nats top prospect trio could make an impact like that — or better. The Nats are projected at 68 wins today by FanGraphs. Add seven wins to that, and you are getting close to being a contender if a few other things go right!

For some other exciting news, two weeks from today will be the day that the Nationals reveal their IFA (international free agents) signings. Hopefully the IFAs are not the only highlight this month. The list of the names has two Top-30 IFAs going to the Nats. But as we know, international free agency is certainly a crapshoot.

With these 40+ days remaining in this offseason, we will sit back and wait to see what Rizzo has up his sleeve to finish the goals he talked about for this roster.

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