Even with the flurry of deals over the past few days, the Washington Nationals have remained quiet. Outside of bringing back Luis Avilán and Andrew Stevenson, Washington has been one of the least active teams in free agency this year. For a more MLB Centric, take a look at Ryan’s Five Bold Offseason Predictions article from a few weeks ago.
At some point, the Nationals will have to start making some moves to improve their team. When that does happen, what could it look like? Well, here are three predictions for what the rest of the Nationals’ offseason could look like.
1) The Nationals Trade For A Quality Starting Pitcher
When you look at the Nationals roster, as presently constructed, starting pitching is one of their biggest weaknesses. Washington has serious questions marks all throughout their rotation, starting at the top with Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin. There’s just no way the Nationals can come into the year expecting Strasburg to get through an entire season fully healthy, or expecting Corbin to bounce back into his 2019 form.
With the money they are owed, both Strasburg and Corbin are going to be Nationals for the rest of their contract. Even so, I don’t see the Nationals not getting some kind of security blanket this offseason in case both pitchers continue on their downward spiral. While it would be great to add Marcus Stroman in free agency, the Nationals just don’t have the resources to compete with some of the other teams that will be in on the right-hander.
With not many quality starters left on the open market, I see the Nationals pivoting to the trade market to solve their pitching woes. A few potential names to keep in mind are Sonny Gray of the Cincinnati Reds, Merrill Kelly of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Sean Manaea of the Oakland Athletics.
2) Carter Kieboom Enters The Season As The Starting Third Basemen
While it might not be the best win-now decision, I don’t see the Nationals giving up on Carter Kieboom just yet. After being called up in July, the 24-year-old really struggled at the plate down the stretch last season. Kieboom slashed .207/.301/.318 with 62 strikeouts in 217 at-bats, meaning he struck out in nearly 29% of his ABs.
While there isn’t much optimism about Kieboom’s long-term future, it really does not make sense for the Nationals to give up on him right now. His trade value has never been lower, so if they were to deal him, they wouldn’t get much of anything in return.
Even if they add some pieces in free agency, the Nationals aren’t going to be a playoff contender next season. With that in mind, it can’t really hurt to give Kieboom one more chance to prove he can be the guy next season. Washington will give the 24-year-old until mid-season to prove he belongs, and if he struggles like he did last year, I think we’ll see the team cut ties for good.
3) Washington Fails To Reach A Long-Term Extension With Juan Soto
When Mike Rizzo spoke about a potential Juan Soto extension at the general managers’ meetings, here’s what he had to say.
“We’ve made it known that we want Juan to be a long-term National,” Rizzo told The Washington Post at MLB’s general managers’ meetings. “It’s no secret. We’ve talked to the player himself; we talked to Scott before. … As of this point, he and I haven’t sat down and discussed it in depth. But we’ve spoken in generalities and that type of thing, and he knows our thought process on it. It will be something we want to talk to him about — being here for a long, long time.”
Sound familiar? Rizzo’s quote seems very reminiscent of what we heard when Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon were in the final years of their contracts. Rizzo said the organization wanted to make both of those players “long-term Nationals”, and they let both walk without making any real effort to bring them back.
This shouldn’t be the case with Juan Soto, but the Nationals seem to be going down the same path they did with Harper and Rendon and expecting a different result. Just in the past two weeks, we’ve seen young stars Byron Buxton and Wander Franco agree to long-term extensions. While Soto is a much better player than these two, we have no evidence that the Nationals are even proposing a long-term deal for the superstar, or making any effort to extend him as soon as possible.
You know what they say, history repeats itself. Juan Soto’s going to enter 2022 with just two guaranteed years left in DC, and the Nationals will risk losing their best player to free agency once again.