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Nationals Biggest Offseason Needs and Targets, Ranked

Updated: Jul 25, 2021


Jeff Roberson/ AP


The 2020 Washington Nationals 60 game season was rough, but we are still the 2019 World Series Champions. The Nationals went 26-34 in 2020 and never really had anything click until the last series of the year when we swept the New York Mets in three games. This resulted in a tie for last place in the NL East standings with the miserable Mets. It was the Nationals first and only 3-game sweep in the 2020 season, and only the third time all season the Nationals had a 3-game win streak. Nationals had the 27th ranked offense in the league and the 25th ranked pitching in the league according to Fangraphs. Needless to say, this team did not make the expanded 16-team playoffs.


There were some bright spots including Juan Soto who would have been the National League MVP if he did not miss 13 games due to a false positive COVID test and some arm problems. Soto won the National League batting title with a .351 batting average, while leading the MLB in OPS (1.185), slugging (.695), and OBP (.490). He had more walks (41) than strikeouts (28), and he led the league in intentional walks with 12. He also smacked 13 home runs just for kicks. Luis Garcia was also a bright spot, the 20-year old second baseman was the youngest player in the league in 2020, and he filled in quite nicely for Starlin Castro after Castro suffered a broken wrist. Garcia batted .276 with 2 home runs and solid defense. He made some tough errors on simple plays but flashed the leather on difficult ones. The 20-year old has a long way to go, but his 2020 showing in 40 games gives Nats fans optimism for the future. Out of the bullpen, Tanner Rainey became the star we all knew he could be. Rainey finally started to throw strikes, and as a result of cutting his walk rate in half, Rainey had a 2.66 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings. According to Fangraphs Rainey was a more valuable reliever than the 2019 NL Reliever of the Year Josh Hader, and 2019 AL Reliever of the Year Aroldis Chapman combined. Trea Turner was outstanding all year long, and catcher Yan Gomes had an awesome year defensively and with the bat as well, but that was pretty much it. Patrick Corbin, Victor Robles, Eric Thames, Carter Kieboom, and Adam Eaton were all major disappointments. The 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg pitched 5 innings this year after signing a 7-year $245 million-dollar contract with the Nats. It is safe to say 2020 was not our year.


Many people think that this offseason will be even slower and longer than most. In 2020 the MLB lost out on a ton of revenue for obvious reasons, but you can call me crazy, but I anticipate a big offseason. This inkling looks like it might come to fruition after Robbie Ray scored a 1-year $8 million-dollar contract from the Toronto Blue Jays this offseason. This is the same guy who had a 6.62 ERA last season and was used out of the bullpen at times for Toronto because he forgot how to throw strikes.


The Nationals go into 2021 with the Atlanta Braves being a heavy favorite to win the NL East, and the New York Mets and Philidelphia Phillies will have a lot of hype even when they are both terrible baseball teams. The last Mets World Series title was 34 years ago, and the Phillies have the second-longest postseason drought in baseball after having a .500 or below record in nine straight seasons. Yikes. The Marlins even made the playoffs in 2020, but they were not a good baseball team overall and their 31-29 record reflected that. Their bullpen, thin starting pitching, and the weak offense would have crumbled in a full 162 game season. Regardless the Nats have many holes and are looking to regroup.


After being above the luxury tax in 2017 and 2018, the Nats were under the cap in 2019 so look for them to be big spenders this offseason. Here are their biggest needs this offseason ranked from lowest to highest, and what likely targets they will look to go after.

 

6. Bullpen

Phil Long/ Wkyc


The Nats bullpen in 2020 was not terrible after they had the worst bullpen ERA in MLB history in 2019 for a team to make the playoffs, and then they went on to win the whole dang thing. Daniel Hudson is penciled in as the closer, with Will Harris, Tanner Rainey, and Kyle Finnegan in line to receive late-inning appearances. Sean Doolittle will be missed, especially after performing much better after a very rocky start in 2020. There are some questions marks heading into next year, but Daniel Hudson, Will Harris, Tanner Rainey, Kyle Finnegan, and Wander Suero are locks to make the roster. The leaves two slots left for internal options or free agents. Look for Washington to add a reliever or two in free agency. Here are some likely options the Nationals will look at.


1. Brad Hand

2021 Opening Day Age: 31

2020 Stats: 22 innings, 2.05 ERA, 29 strikeouts, 4 walks, 16 saves, 1.1 fWar

Projected Contract: 3 years, $25 million

Nats level of interest: High

Brad Hand would be the perfect fit to take Sean Doolittle's spot in the back of the Nats bullpen. Tanner Rainey, Will Harris, and Daniel Hudson will all serve big roles in the back of the Nats' pen next year, but the Nationals have 1 left-handed reliever on the 40-man roster going into next season, Seth Romero, who struggled allowing 4 runs in 2 2/3 innings last season as a rookie. Hand has put together 5 straight seasons as an elite reliever now and has shown he can close out games as well after collecting 105 saves over his career. If signed by Washington, Hand would handle most of the closing duties, and he would be one of our bigger signings this offseason. Look for GM Mike Rizzo to show interest in Hand, after being rumored to have interest in him at previous trade deadlines, and Rizzo seeing a lot of Hand when he was a Miami Marlin. Hand's track record and age will score him a nice contract.


Prediction: Signs with the San Diego Padres on a 3-year $25 million-dollar deal


2. Alex Colomé

2021 Opening Day Age: 32

2020 Stats: 22 1/3 innings, 0.81 ERA, 16 strikeouts, 8 walks, 0.6 fWar

Projected Contract: 2 years, $22 million

Nats level of interest: Moderate

Much to the dismay of my MoeCast co-host Chris Blake, Alex Colomé sneakily has been one of the best relievers in baseball over the past two seasons as the closer for the Chicago White Sox. Colomé has a 2.27 ERA and 42 saves over his past 83 1/3 innings, and a career 138 saves over with the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago White Sox. Colomé does not generate many strikeouts, but he generates soft contact and keeps the ball on the ground. The Nationals would be in a great spot if they sign Colomé, but it may be out of their price range with Hudson and Harris already locked into late-inning roles.


Prediction: Resigns with the Chicago White Sox on a 2-year $22 million-dollar deal


3. Oliver Perez

2021 Opening Day Age: 39

2020 Stats: 18 innings, 2.00 ERA, 14 strikeouts, 6 walks, 0.4 fWAR

Projected Contract: 1 year, $3 million

Nats level of interest: Moderate

Why not? Oliver Perez would be a great fit for his third stint with Washington on a 1-year deal. Perez signed a 2-year $7 million-dollar contract with Washington in 2015 and it... did not go very well. Perez had a 4.81 ERA in 88 innings while serving as a left-handed specialist. Perez did not score a major league contract in 2018 until June 2nd, and Perez put up a great three-year run with the Cleveland Indians. In three years Perez had a 2.67 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 91 innings while being a great clubhouse presence. It was a rollercoaster ride every time Perez entered a ball game in a Nats uniform, but he seemed to figure it out in Cleveland. Perez issued 25 walks with Cleveland in 91 innings, while he issued 32 walks with Washington in 88 innings. Perez is a fun player to watch when he's on with his different pitching motions and changing of speeds, and there's a real shot that Perez returns to Washington on a 1-year deal.


Prediction: Signs with the Washington Nationals on a 1-year $3 million-dollar deal


4. Darren O'Day

2021 Opening Day Age: 38

2020 Stats: 16 1/3 innings, 1.10 ERA, 22 strikeouts, 5 walks, 0.3 fWAr

Projected Contract: 1 year, $4 million

Nats level of interest: Moderate to high

Remember when Darren O'Day was the most coveted reliever on the market and the Washington Nationals were a bullpen piece away from being a World Series contender? Seems like yesterday. O'Day was lights out with the Baltimore Orioles from 2012-2015 and was favorited to come to Washington in the 2015 offseason. I remember reading the deal was "all but done" before signing a 4-year $31 million-dollar contract to stay with the Baltimore Orioles. O'Day missed most of 2018 and 2019 before having a nice 2020 with the Atlanta Braves. The sidearmer's deception is still there, and O'Day will look to score a 1-2 year deal even at the age of 38. O'Day has similar numbers against right and left-handed batters, and I believe Rizzo will want to take a flyer on O'Day.


Prediction: Signs with the Washington Nationals on a 1-year $4 million-dollar deal

 

5. First Base

David J. Phillip/ AP


The Nationals production from first base in 2020 was utterly terrible. Eric Thames batted .203 with only 3 home runs in 41 games. A combination of Eric Thames, Asdrubal Cabrera, Howie Kendrick, Jake Noll, and Brock Holt combined to have the second-worst production in all of baseball among first baseman slightly above the Baltimore Orioles, which had 53 plate appearances from Chris Davis, so that really should not even count. Mr. National Ryan Zimmerman opting out before the season really hurt us, and the Nationals are in dire need of a first baseman. Look for the Nationals to add a couple of big pieces to shore up first base for next season. Here are the most likely options:


1. Ryan Zimmerman

2021 Opening Day Age: 36

2020 Stats: (Opted out)

Projected Contract: 1 year, $2 million

Nats level of interest: Extremely high

Mr. National should be a shoe in to return to Washington for the 2021 season. After an offseason where Zimmerman was close to retirement, Zimmerman inked a 1-year $2 million-dollar contract with Washington for the 2020 season. Zim opted out, and 2020 was the first season in Nationals history where Ryan Zimmerman was not wearing a Nationals uniform. Zimmerman is not nearly the player he used to be, but Zimmerman was in all-star in 2017 and produced well in the 2019 postseason. He has some pop in his bat and will get many of the at-bats against left-handed starting pitching. Hopefully, the year off allows him to be fresh and healthy for the 2021 season. Zimmerman when asked if he was going to play in 2021 said, "I fully plan on being back. I've told my family and a bunch of close friends that I can't go out like this." Look for Zim to sign a one year deal relatively early in the offseason to return to Washington.


Prediction: Signs a 1-year, $2 million-dollar deal with the Washington Nationals


2. Mitch Moreland

2021 Opening Day Age: 36

2020 Stats: 42 games, .265 AVG, .894 OPS, 10 home runs, 29 RBIs, 0.9 fWar

Projected Contract: 1 year, $6 million

Nats level of interest: Moderate to high

Mitch Moreland would be a great signing for the Washington Nationals. Moreland will have a handful of suitors after a very solid 2020, but he would be a perfect fit in Washington. Moreland has always been solid with the glove, even winning a Gold Glove award in 2018 with Boston. Moreland has moderate power, but his .894 OPS will play. He had a great start with Boston but fizzled off after being traded to the San Diego Padres. Moreland signed with the Red Sox late last offseason, and his poor showing in San Diego hurt his value. Moreland would fit the criteria for Mike Rizzo's left-handed platoon first baseman and then some, so look for Moreland and the Nationals to show mutual interest with each other.


Moreland also hit one of the longest and most glorious home runs I have ever seen in my life against the Dodgers in the World Series a couple of years ago, so here's that.


Prediction: Signs a 1-year, $6 million-dollar deal with the Washington Nationals


3. Howie Kendrick

2021 Opening Day Age: 37

2020 Stats: 25 games, .275 AVG, .705 OPS, 2 home runs, 14 RBIs, -0.3 fWar

Projected Contract: 1 year, $5 million

Nats level of interest: It's complicated

I will never forget you, Howie Kendrick. This guy is awesome. There could not be a better human being and a better player for the Nationals 2019 World Series title. Howie had the best season of his career in 2019, batting .344 with 17 home runs and a .966 OPS. His postseason heroics were historic. Howie hit the game-winning grand slam in Game 5 of the NLDS against Joe Kelly and the Dodgers, was the NLCS MVP vs the St. Louis Cardinals, and hit the game-winning home run against the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the World Series. Howie Kendrick deserves a lifetime contract, so if he wants to come back and play a little first base, that's what should happen. Kendrick has struggled with injuries especially last season, but he is still a well above average bat.


If you want to relive the moment, I should supply you with a Howie video after putting in a Mitch Moreland one, so here it is.


Prediction: Retires


4. Josh Bell

2021 Opening Day Age: 28

2020 Stats: 57 games, .226 AVG, .669 OPS, 8 home runs, 22 RBIs, -0.4 fWar

Projected Contract: (2 years left on the original contract)

Nats level of interest: Low to moderate

Josh Bell will be one of the only players that I put on this list that is not actually a free agent but hear me out. Bell is a solid player that is valued pretty low right now which is good for the Nationals weak farm system. Josh Bell is 28 years old and the Pittsburgh Pirates are a LONG way away from contending, so why not trade one of your better players away with only 2 years left on his contract for some minor league prospects? Josh Bell was an All-star in 2019 but has been abysmal since the all-star break of last season. Bell has a lot of power and is entering the prime of his career. The Nationals could trade a few middle of the road prospects for Bell, and with a very weak first base free agency class this could be a possibility that Mike Rizzo inquires about. Ryan Zimmerman only has a year or two left in his career, so Josh Bell could be the future first baseman for the Washington Nationals.


Prediction: Stays with the Pittsburgh Pirates

 

4. Catcher

Yong Kim/ Philadelphia Inquirer


The Nationals have always had a solid catcher that can swing the bat with a backup that is a good defender. The past two seasons have been fun with Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes, but I think it is time that Washington moves on from the soon to be 38-year-old Suzuki who is now a well below-average defender. As I said earlier Yan Gomes had a terrific season last year, but it will be interesting to see what Rizzo does at the catching position this offseason. Gomes is under contract for one more season, and here are the options that Rizzo could go to for the second catcher:


1. JT Realmuto

2021 Opening Day Age: 30

2020 Stats: 47 games, .266 AVG, .6840 OPS, 11 home runs, 32 RBIs, 1.7 fWar

Projected Contract: 7 years, $160 million

Nats level of interest: Extremely high

Mike Rizzo I know you are reading this and you value my opinion so here it is: it is time to back up the Brink's truck for JT Realmuto. This guy is a superstar and will only get better. He is above and beyond every single catcher in the major leagues and it isn't even close. Realmuto is an elite defender, elite baserunner, and an elite hitter. The three best catchers in the league according to fWAr over the past two seasons are JT Realmuto (7.4 fWar), Yasmani Grandal (6.9 fWar), and Christian Vasquez (4.9 fWar). That's how far ahead Realmuto is compared to his counterparts. Realmuto will have no shortness of suitors, with the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, and Washington Nationals being the top three most likely targets in my mind. The Phillies will not want to see Realmuto leave for a division rival, so it will be tough for the Nationals to acquire him. Rizzo has wanted Realmuto for years (pretty much like every other GM) so I expect Realmuto to have a huge payday. No matter what happens this offseason, if the Nationals score Realmuto I will be the happiest man on planet earth.


Prediction: Signs a 7-year, $160 million-dollar deal with the New York Mets


2. James McCann

2021 Opening Day Age: 30

2020 Stats: 31 games, .289 AVG, .896 OPS, 7 home runs, 15 RBIs, 1.5 fWar

Projected Contract: 3 years, $33 million

Nats level of interest: High

James McCann is the best catcher that you have never heard of. McCann has put up back to back stellar season with the Chicago, and McCann will hit the open market as the second-best catcher available at just 30 years old. He was an all-star in 2019 and played in only 31 games in 2020 after the White Sox signed Yasmani Grandal. McCann has stated that he wants to be a full-time player once again, and the defensive first catcher will be the first man that teams call after missing out on the JT Realmuto sweepstakes. McCann went from a terrible catcher on the Tigers to a Top 10 catcher on the White Sox, and look for him to score after Realmuto is signed.


Prediction: Signs a 3-year, $33 million-dollar with the Washington Nationals


3. Yadier Molina

2021 Opening Day Age: 38

2020 Stats: 38 games, .262 AVG, .662 OPS, 4 home runs, 22 RBIs, 0.5 fWar

Projected Contract: 2 years, $14 million

Nats level of interest: Low

This sounds pretty crazy but anything is possible. No matter what happens to Yadier Molina over these next few years he will be known as nothing but one of the better catchers of all time with the St. Louis Cardinals, but crazier things have happened. Molina wants to play a couple more season and I am not sure if the Cardinals want that. Molina has slowed down dramatically over the past few seasons but he would make a great platoon catcher with Yan Gomes. Molina still has a rocket for an arm and a slightly above average bat. Remember, Ivan Rodriguez played his final two seasons with the Washington Nationals, and Mike Rizzo will sign Molina if he feels like Molina will be an upgrade. I expect Molina to be back with St. Louis but not shocked if he signs elsewhere.


Prediction: Resigns with the St. Louis Cardinals on a 2-year $14 million-dollar deal


4. Wilson Ramos

2021 Opening Day Age: 33

2020 Stats: 45 games, .239 AVG, .684 OPS, 5 home runs, 15 RBIs, 0.2 fWar

Projected Contract: 2 years, $10 million

Nats level of interest: Low to moderate

C'mon who says no! The buffalo was a fan favorite in Washington from 2011-2016 and Ramos has always been a great hitter. Ramos smacked 82 home runs in six seasons in DC, and he was an above-average defender. Ramos was in line to get paid after the 2016 season after having a career year, but an ACL tear late in the regular season derailed his career. His ceremonial first pitch in the playoffs was a tear-jerker. Ramos played well enough in 2017-2018 with Tampa and Philidelphia to score a 2-year $19 million-dollar deal with the New York Mets and his time there was average. Ramos had a great year offensively in 2019, but Noah Syndergaard and other pitchers expressed their frustrations with Ramos' framing skills. Ramos did not do much in 2020, and he is the worst baserunner in Major League baseball, but it would be awesome to see Ramos in a Nats uniform once again for the 2021 season if the other options do not work out.


Prediction: Signs a 2-year, $10 million-dollar deal with the Cincinnati Reds

 

3. Third/ Second Baseman

Elsa/ Getty Images


I thought the departure of Anthony Rendon would hurt, but I did not realize it would be such a significant blow to this offense. The Nationals need an infielder in the worst way possible, and the good thing is there are many options on the market and many different directions that they can go. The reason that I am grouping second and third base together, is because the Nationals do have some flexibility here. Starlin Castro has the ability to play second and third base as a league-average player, and Luis Garcia proved that he could get a chunk of the playing time at second base heading into next season. Top prospect Carter Kieboom was abysmal at the plate, but his defense was surprisingly very good. Kieboom was so bad at the plate, that he only had 1, yes ONE, extra-base hit in 122 plate appearances. To put that in perspective Juan Soto had an extra-base hit in his first at-bat of the 2020 MLB season after missing the first eight games due to a false positive COVID test. It will be interesting to see what Mike Rizzo does at the third/second base positions, and here are the best options in my mind.


1. DJ LeMahieu

2021 Opening Day Age: 32

2020 Stats: 50 games, .364 AVG, 1.011 OPS, 10 home runs, 27 RBIs, 2.5 fWar

Projected Contract: 4 years, $80 million

Nats level of interest: Extremely high

This guy does not have the nickname "LeMachine" for nothing. DJ LeMahieu absolutely rakes. I had a fair reason to doubt if LeMahieu would produce in New York after rough home and road splits while he was with the Colorado Rockies, but LeMahieu showed that he could and will rake anywhere he goes. LeMahieu has been one of the best players in baseball over the past two seasons, batting .336 with 36 home runs and a .922 OPS in 196 games. He does not strikeout much and he has spent time at every position on the infield over his career. LeMahieu is in line to get paid by any team on the market, but I am confident Washington will be the top contender with the New York Yankees to sign DJ. Last time LeMahieu was on the open market he garnered a lot of interest from Washington, and this time there is no reason to believe he won't get that attention once again.


Prediction: Signs a 4-year, $80 million-dollar deal with the Washington Nationals


2. Justin Turner

2021 Opening Day Age: 36

2020 Stats: 42 games, .307 AVG, .860 OPS, 4 home runs, 23 RBIs, 1.3 fWar

Projected Contract: 2 years, $25 million

Nats level of interest: Very high

Justin Turner is the kind of player that every team wants to have. He is unselfish (or so I thought), plays hard, can play multiple positions, does not strike out a ton, and he has some pop. He flashed the leather throughout the World Series at third base and he played second base as recently as 2019. As I talked about on the MoeCast Turner has quietly been a Top 20 player in the league since 2015, and he has not slowed down. He has a lot of experience and can fit well in any lineup. He never has had any monster home run seasons, but he hit a career-high of 27 in 2019. Turner would be a valuable right-handed bat in the Nationals lineup if he can be lured away from Los Angeles.


Prediction: Resigns with the Los Angeles Dodgers on a 2-year $24 million-dollar deal


3. Jonathan Schoop

2021 Opening Day Age: 29

2020 Stats: 44 games, .278 AVG, .799 OPS, 8 home runs, 23 RBIs, 1.4 fWar

Projected Contract: 2 years, $11 million

Nats level of interest: Moderate to high

Every offseason I convince myself that the Nationals are going to purse Jonathan Schoop and they never do. Throughout Schoop's career, he has been an average defender with a lot of power. Everywhere he goes he produces on the offensive end, but his career has been hindered by a lack of consistency. Schoop is either a really good or average player with not much in between. He has spent time at second base and third base and he has bounced around between a few teams over the past few seasons. He had a career year in 2017 with the Baltimore Orioles when he hit 32 home runs and batted .293 while being selected to the all-star game. Look for the Nationals to pursue a guy like Schoop if they miss out on some bigger names.


Prediction: Signs a 2 year, $11 million-dollar deal with the Boston Red Sox


4. Jonathan Villar

2021 Opening Day Age: 29

2020 Stats: 52 games, .232 AVG, .593 OPS, 2 home runs,15 RBIs, -0.3 fWar

Projected Contract: 1 year, $4 million

Nats level of interest: Moderate

Jonathan Villar is another player that most teams wish they had. After a career year with Baltimore in 2019 when he hit 24 home runs and stole 40 bases they decided to put him on waivers and he was claimed by the Miami Marlins. The Washington Nationals did not try to claim him, but they signed Starlin Castro instead. Weird. Villar had a tough year with Miami and the Blue Jays last year, but he is a strong bound back candidate to hit for a high average with a little pop and a lot of speed. Not only can Villar play second and third base, he can also play the outfield as well. Villar will have plenty of suitors on the market for a short term contract as a prime bounce-back candidate.


Prediction: Signs a 1-year, $4 million-dollar deal with the Philadelphia Phillies

 

2. Outfielder

Mark Brown / Getty Images


A few words. Bye-bye Adam Eaton. I get that Adam Eaton was a piece of our World Series Championship team but I will not be sad to see Adam Eaton go after his option was decline. Michael A Tayler was also let go, and the Nationals are left with many question marks in the outfield. Josh Harrison was resigned and he has the ability to play some outfield, but right now Andrew Stevenson would be our starting right fielder for Opening Day in 2021. Stevenson performed so well down the stretch of last season that I am actually pretty excited to see him play a lot in 2021, but that does not mean that we do not have to go out and get another outfielder. There are many top outfielders that could supply us with the middle of the bat lineup that we need, and here are the top options.


1. George Springer

2021 Opening Day Age: 31

2020 Stats: 51 games, .265 AVG, .899 OPS, 14 home runs, 32 RBIs, 1.9 fWar

Projected Contract: 6 years, $145 million

Nats level of interest: High

George Springer is a cheater. Does not mean that he isn't a very good baseball player. George Springer is everything the Nationals need in an outfielder going into next season. He gets on base, hits for power, and is a great defender. Springer will be pretty costly and have plenty of suitors but if Rizzo wants to pursue a guy like Springer I feel like the Nationals would have a shot at him. Springer has a combined 8.4 fWar over the past two seasons and he has been very consistent since he broke into the league in 2014. Springer hit 39 home runs in 122 games in 2019 and he has cut down on the strikeouts after his first few seasons. Springer will be looking to get paid this offseason, and I expect him to not be on the Astros next year.


Prediction: Signs a 6-year, $145 million-dollar contract with the New York Mets


2. Marcell Ozuna

2021 Opening Day Age: 30

2020 Stats: 60 games, .338 AVG, 1.067 OPS, 18 home runs, 56 RBIs, 2.5 fWar

Projected Contract: 5 years, $90 million

Nats level of interest: High

Boy oh boy did Marcell Ozuna have himself year. After a tough year with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019, the Atlanta Braves signed him to a 1-year contract late in the offseason and Ozuna did not disappoint for Atlanta. He was a force in the middle of the lineup and was on a tear throughout the season. His power was off the charts and every time he stepped up to the plate I expected him to hit a home run. The one knock on Ozuna is his defense. It was only three years ago that Ozuna won a Gold Glove in 2017, but now he is one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball. He is slow and was relegated to mostly DH duties by Atlanta in 2020. With the DH probably not in the National League for the 2021 MLB season, Ozuna's value is down slightly but I expect him to still get a major payday somewhere.


Prediction: Signs a 5-year, $90 million-dollar contract with the Chicago White Sox


3. Ryan Braun

2021 Opening Day Age: 37

2020 Stats: 39 games, .233 AVG, .769 OPS, 8 home runs, 26 RBIs, 0.1 fWar

Projected Contract: 1 year, $6 million

Nats level of interest: Moderate

How weird would this be? Ryan Braun has quite simply not been very good since 2016. His bat can play in some lineups but he only has a couple of quality seasons left in the major leagues. He has been a Milwaukee Brewer since 2007, but it would be very surprising to see him back with the team unless he signs a 1-year deal to wrap up his career as a Brewer. Braun played pretty subpar in 39 games in 2020, but I have a little more faith in him than most people do at this point. Braun did hit .285 with 22 home runs and a .849 OPS in 144 games in 2019. I would not be shocked to see Ryan Braun in a Nationals uniform especially if Mike Rizzo really believes in Andrew Stevenson to be our right fielder next year. Braun would be a great platoon bat with Stevenson and look for the Nationals to have interest in Braun especially if they spend big money on other position groups. Braun also has some experience at first base.


Prediction: Signs a 1-year, $6 million-dollar contract with the Washington Nationals


4. Joc Pederson

2021 Opening Day Age: 28

2020 Stats: 43 games, .190 AVG, .681 OPS, 7 home runs, 16 RBIs, -0.1 fWar

Projected Contract: 2 years, $22 million

Nats level of interest: Low

Joc Pederson had a terrible 2019 season going into his contract year. I have never thought Pederson was a good player especially after the hype he had coming into the Major Leagues, but I could see the Nationals inking him to a deal late in the offseason if a lot of other options fell through. Pederson is a dead pull hitter and a solid defender, but he is terrible against left-handed pitching and he is a very streaky hitter. His career batting average is .230. Pederson has never had a season with an fWar above 3.5, and look for him to sign a short term deal with a team that he will see a lot of playing time on so he can raise his value. He does produce well in big moments in the postseason though.


Prediction: Signs a 2-year, $22 million-dollar contract with the Toronto Blue Jays

 

1. Starting Pitching

Aaron Doster / AP


And the Nationals biggest need this offseason is... starting pitching. What!? Why am I saying this for a team with three aces in Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin? Well I shouldn't have to tell you by now but Mike Rizzo and the Washington Nationals pride themselves on their starting pitching. Ever since Rizzo has taken over as GM the Nationals number one priority has been starting pitching and it has obviously been very successful. Believe it or not Max Scherzer is entering the final year on his contract in 2021 and Stephen Strasburg is always a question mark if he can stay healthy. Patrick Corbin struggled in 2020, and we do not know what to expect from Joe Ross in 2021 after he opted-out of the 2020 season. Austin Voth and Eric Fedde were both terrible as our 4th and 5th starters so look for Mike Rizzo to spend on the starting market this winter getting 1-2 starters. There are a lot of different routes that can be made and here are the best and most likely targets:


1. Trevor Bauer

2021 Opening Day Age: 30

2020 Stats: 11 games, 73 innings, 1.73 ERA, 100 strikeouts, 17 walks, 2.5 fWar

Projected Contract: 6 years, $200 million

Nats level of interest: Extremely high

Trevor Bauer is the most coveted free agent on the market this offseason. The righty put it all together in 2020 with the Reds, with a spectacular ERA and strikeout to walk ratio. I fully expect him to win the 2020 NL Cy Young Award when it is announced and rightfully so. Bauer is known for his notorious persona and he has stated in the past he is very open to taking short term deals with a high annual salary, but I expect a large market team to splurge on him and give him an offer he cannot refuse. Bauer has been a spectacular pitcher for many years now, and for the most part, he is a player that you love if he is on your team, but hate if he is your opponent. Bauer likes to attack hitters, and his fastball and breaking ball provide a lethal combo for slicing up hitters. I expect a major bidding war for Bauer, and I expect him to go to a big market to pitch on a big stage and have a good base for his social media content.


Prediction: Signs a 6-year $200 million-dollar contract with the Los Angeles Angels


2. Charlie Morton

2021 Opening Day Age: 37

2020 Stats: 9 games, 38 innings, 4.74 ERA, 42 strikeouts, 10 walks, 0.9 fWar

Projected Contract: 2 years, $30 million

Nats level of interest: High

Charlie Morton is one of the best pitchers in baseball, and I cannot believe I am saying that in 2020. "Mr. Game Seven" would have been a treat to watch pitch in Game 7 vs the Dodgers if it had gotten there. Morton is pretty quiet regarding his future, and he might retire, but I expect him to pitch 1-2 more seasons at a place that he deems is the best fit. Morton has had a great career since 2017, after being an average pitcher in his first nine seasons as a Major Leaguer. He started throwing much harder after arriving in Houston, and he kept the momentum of his success in Tampa Bay. Morton struggled a little bit last season, but in 2019 he finished third in the Cy Young voting. Morton also pitched well in the playoffs this year. His fastball velocity was down slightly from 2019 which is a slight concern, but I expect Morton to have plenty of suitors in the free-agent market.


Prediction: Signs a 2-year $30 million-dollar contract with the New York Yankees


3. Marcus Stroman

2021 Opening Day Age: 29

2020 Stats: (Opted Out)

Projected Contract: 3 years, $60 million

Nats level of interest: Moderate

Marcus Stroman had a very interesting 2020. After posting countless videos on social media of him testing out different mechanics and pitch grips, he decided to opt-out of the 2020 season in surprising fashion. He cited the COVID-19 pandemic and a calf injury, but he posted many videos in groups of people not seeming to care about the pandemic. I am mentioning this because I believe he does not end up back with the Mets and he did not enjoy his time there. Stroman was nursing a calf injury until his opt-out date, and the day that he was available to opt out and be a free agent for next season, he opted-out. This does not take away from the fact that Stroman is a very solid pitcher, and I think he is just going to get better over time. He has never been a power pitcher, but he knows how to get batters out. He is reportedly "leaning towards" not accepting the Mets 1-year $18.9 million-dollar qualifying offer, but I expect him to sign a short-term deal elsewhere. Stroman had a 3.22 ERA in 184 1/3 innings in 2019, after a 5.54 ERA in 102 1/3 innings in 2018.


Prediction: Signs a 3-year, $60 million-dollar contract with the San Fransisco Giants


4. Rich Hill

2021 Opening Day Age: 41

2020 Stats: 8 games, 38 2/3 innings, 3.03 ERA, 31 strikeouts, 17 walks, 0.7 fWar

Projected Contract: 1 year, $5 million

Nats level of interest: Low to moderate

Rich Hill is the kind of guy that can pitch until he can't lift up his arm anymore. He relies on a loopy curveball and deception to get batters out, and when he is healthy it works very well. The key to this is "when he is healthy" because this guy cannot stay healthy. He has many blister issues and has arm problems, but he could be a player that Washington looks at as a depth signing. Hill can still put together quality innings and has many years of playoff experience. He would not be the flashiest signing that we have ever had, but he would be a good change of pace starting pitcher in our rotation.


Prediction: Signs a 1-year, $5 million-dollar contract with the Washington Nationals

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