As I write this, there are a little under 24 hours until the current CBA expires for Major League Baseball and its Players Association. The offseason has already had a flurry of activity, with $1.46 billion dollars having been committed to free agents, and this is not surprising, as teams are attempting to lock down some names before a lockout inevitably hits. Some of the bigger names already gone include Corey Seager, Robbie Ray, and unfortunately for Nats fans, Max Scherzer, who left for the Mets.
So far into free agency, Nats fans…have not been happy. Aside from the news on Scherzer, DC fans have been left mostly uncertain on what the team will look like in 2022. We’ve had minor news, including the signings of long time former Phillie César Hernández, as well as claiming minor leaguers Lucius Fox and Richard Ureña off of waivers. But other than these, which are at the most depth signings that don’t really give any hints as to the team’s plan for the upcoming season, it’s been pretty quiet. In a loaded free agency class, the Nats have been linked to Chris Taylor, but zero other big names. Which begs the question, what is this team doing?
Some of my fellow colleagues at HSHH have attempted to predict the Nats’ plans once everything gets up and running again, but I have a more pessimistic take. The lack of interest in major free agents and the small depth signings are signals of what’s going to likely be a rough 2022 for Nats fans.
Yes, guys, face the truth. It’s hard to visualize a big star like Kris Bryant or Carlos Correa agreeing to come to DC during a rebuild. Sure, Correa even acknowledged that he would be willing to play for a rebuilding team, but he detailed wanting a team with a clear direction that would be willing to work around a larger salary for him. After all, money talks. But Nats fans need to understand that this team’s rebuild is anything but detailed.
Which gets to my main point. Nationals fans, lower your expectations. There’s nobody big coming to DC, and we fool ourselves by not understanding it.
Juan Soto’s contract situation is unknown. Sure, there have been rumors of an extension, but it’s still very likely a deal doesn’t get done before this season. The Nats still are weighing the possibility of bringing longtime franchise mainstay Ryan Zimmerman back as a DH platoon option, and it’s definitely worth noting that Alcides Escobar still has a potential starting spot on this team. Are we really going to expect a team that has these guys playing is going to go out of their way to shell a 7-year/$300M contract to the likes of a superstar player? No, I don’t think that’s going to happen.
A lot of people will read this article and automatically fire back with “We can be competitive and rebuild!”, but the truth of the matter is, it takes a special kind of front office to do that. We’ve seen teams such as the Yankees pull off a soft rebuild/retool before, but it’s a very rare situation that only teams with a strong desire to spend and a solid farm system are able to pull off. The Nationals, in my opinion, have shown no ability to do that properly. Our prospect pool, while bolstered, still needs to be more developed, and I find it difficult to think a superstar is interested in that. And I’d rather wait for a consistent young team then sign big players whose contracts might turn into albatrosses at any point.
In no way am I defending the choices of Nationals ownership, who often tend to be cheap for no reason, especially when patriarch Ted Lerner is worth over $5 billion. No. If the Nationals wanted to go all in, that would be a dream scenario, and ownership more than has the facilities to do it. The reason I say all of what I am, and why Nats fans need to lower their expectations, is because it doesn’t fit the time table of the franchise to go into hyperdrive on a team so full of holes. Our pitching depth is a disaster, we have a young catching platoon that needs at bats, the bullpen needs to work in low pressure situations to build experience, and we still have the unfortunate cases of Carter Kieboom and Victor Robles hanging around. Until these situations are at least somewhat resolved, it’s apparent that we as a fanbase need to understand that it doesn’t fit the time table to grab a massive contract.
I will probably catch some heat for this article, but I’ll stand by what I said. Be patient, Nationals fans. Pray for a Soto extension, which will make all of this that much more logical, and understand that we’re likely in for a long offseason. The minor moves we’ve made are an indication that the team will not be competing in 2022, which ideally makes the franchise better in the years moving forward.
We waited forever to finally get the World Series championship we deserve. We can wait a bit to become a contender again in an appropriate timetable. If by some chance the Nats open up their pocketbooks and grab a big star? Fantastic! Let’s hope it works. Just don’t expect it to happen.