Thanksgiving has come and gone, and just four days remain until the CBA expiration date of December, 1st. For the Washington Nationals, it has been a very quiet offseason to this point. Washington has not shown any sense of urgency in getting potential deals done before that Dec. 1 deadline, something other teams, like the New York Mets, have taken advantage of.
If the Nationals are to make a move in the final four days of the month, what could it look like? Well, here are three players the Nationals should be interested in locking up before the potential lockout.
1) OF Jorge Soler
30-year-old outfielder Jorge Soler has had an interesting career. Soler started off his time in the big leagues with the Chicago Cubs, where he was one of the top prospects in all of baseball. After three years in Chicago, the Cubs dealt Soler to the Kansas City Royals, where he played four years before being traded again to the Atlanta Braves at last year’s trade deadline.
Soler proved to be a pivotal piece during the Braves’ championship run, hitting .269 with 14 home runs, 33 RBIs, and posting a 128 OPS+ during 55 regular season games with Atlanta. The outfielder also hit some big-time home runs in the postseason, none bigger than his three-run home run in Game Six of the World Series, helping lead the Braves to the title. Soler’s success in the Fall Classic led to him taking home the honor of World Series MVP.
Soler would give the Nationals a much-needed boost in the power department, something they currently lack in their lineup. Baseball-Reference has Soler projected to slash .236/.326.464 with 25 2B, 27 home runs, and 77 RBIs in 2022. If the Nationals were able to get this type of year out of him, it would be a huge success. Soler also won’t demand a long-term commitment, so he could be a candidate to be moved at the deadline if the Nationals are out of the race.
2) LHP Yusei Kikuchi
Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi had a very interesting 2021 season. Pitching in his third season for the Mariners, Kikuchi had a great start to the year. In his first 16 starts, the lefty was 6-4 with a 3.48 ERA and a WHIP of 1.088. Kikuchi’s hot start earned him his first All-Star selection, the only Mariner to be selected to play in the mid-season classic.
The second half was a completely different story. Kikuchi fell apart, struggling to the tune of a 5.98 ERA in 58.2 second-half innings pitched. While it is certainly alarming how things changed for the lefty after the All-Star break, the Nationals are in a position where they need to take risks on players with some upside. Without big money to spend on the top free agents, Washington will need to find players they could bring in on a short-term deal and potentially trade at the deadline if they have success.
Kikuchi showed in the first half last season he can be that guy. He wouldn’t cost much at all, and if he could replicate his success from the first half of last season, Washington could deal him at the deadline for a decent prospect.
3) IF Jonathan Villar
Jonathan Villar quietly had a nice year for the New York Mets last season. The veteran infielder slashed .249/.322/.416 with 18 2B, 18 home runs, 44 RBIs, and 14 SB. Villar has the ability to play second or third base, as well as shortstop, which could be intriguing to the Nationals.
While he isn’t a star, Villar is certainly a higher caliber player than what the Nationals currently have at shortstop in Alcides Escobar. Villar has much more power and is an overall better hitter, so Washington could sign the veteran to start at shortstop, allowing Escobar to serve as a backup infielder off the bench.
Last year, the Mets signed Villar to a one-year, $3.5M contract. Washington probably would have to go a little above that number, potentially to two years, $10M or so, but Villar’s versatility could make the deal well worth it.
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