When, or maybe at this point it’s looking more like if, baseball does return, the Washington Nationals have plenty of work to do. If the Nationals were to roll out the team they currently employ, it’s hard to see a way they are not one of the two or three worst teams in baseball.
Thankfully, the Nationals have plenty of money to work with, so if they do decide to get active one baseball returns they have the ability to make some quality moves.
Today we take a look at three moves the Nationals should make once the lockout finally ends.
1) Sign OF/DH Kyle Schwarber to a four-year, $70M deal
Signing Kyle Schwarber alone isn’t going to fix the Nationals offense, but his return would upgrade their lineup in a big way. Washington desperately needs a power bat in the middle of their order, and as we saw last season, Schwarber is more than capable of being that guy.
Schwarber, who turns just 29 years old in March, posted a 145 wRC+ that ranked first among all free agents and 11th in baseball among players with at least 400 plate appearances. His 32 home runs and .554 SLG% were higher than the mark of any player on the Nationals roster.
The 29-year-old would fill in as the Nationals starting LF or DH and would be a nice long-term addition to a lineup that needs to give Juan Soto some consistent protection.
2) Sign SP Zach Davies to a two-year, $16M deal
Starting pitching might be Washington’s biggest need once the lockout ends. Currently, the Nationals are relying on injury-plagued Stephen Strasburg and the steadily declining Patrick Corbin to anchor their rotation. That is not a winning strategy, and the Nationals will need another decent arm to pair with Strasburg, Corbin, and young right-hander Josiah Gray.
While most of the quality starting pitchers are off the market, one starter with some decent upside they should go after is Zach Davies. The 29-year-old struggled last season in Chicago, going 6-12 with a 5.78 ERA. Looking just at last year’s stats Davies doesn’t look like a good option, but if you dive a little deeper you can see he does have some upside.
In 2019, Davies went 10-7 with a 3.55 ERA for the Brewers. The right-hander followed that up by going 7-4 with a 2.73 ERA during the shortened season in 2020. Davies also has been able to eat up innings. In four of his five full seasons in the big leagues, the right-hander has started at least 28 games and pitched 145 or more innings.
The Nationals need someone that can consistently stay on the field and start every fifth day, and Davies can be that guy. He’s affordable and still relatively young, so he still has some upside if he can regain his old form.
3) Extend Josh Bell
It certainly isn’t as vital as extending Juan Soto but keeping Josh Bell in D.C. for the foreseeable future should be at the top of the Nationals list of priorities. After a dreadful start to the season, Bell turned things on towards the middle of May and ended up having a very good year.
The powerful first basemen slashed .261/.347/.823 with 27 home runs, 88 RBIs, and a 124 OPS+. Bell ranked in the top-twelve of first basemen in home runs, RBIs, SLG%, and OPS.
Bell needs to be a part of the Nationals’ core for the next five to ten years, and Washington should waste no time and extend him right when the lockout is lifted.