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Breaking down the Nationals' 40-man roster

Breaking down the Nationals' 40-man roster

Now is a good time to reset the ledger before free agency begins moving in earnest. Washington’s 40-man roster — which is resting at 30, for the moment — is the key basis for roster building as it treks forward this offseason. So, let’s break it down by position group. This list will prove handy throughout the offseason.

Relief pitchers

Aaron Barrett, 31, RHP
Overview
: What a year 2019 was. Barrett made it from major-league spring training to a major-league mound. He spent most of the time in between with Double-A Harrisburg. Barrett’s return following his litany of devastating arm injuries and was a feel-good story in 2019. His hope is to no longer be viewed as a comeback story in 2020. He’d rather be an authentic bullpen option. He could well be one in spring training. 
Contract status: Barrett is entering his third arbitration year and will be on a new one-year deal near the league minimum.

James Bourque, 26, RHP
Overview
: Bourque pitched well in Double-A, then endured a shell-shocked single visit to the major leagues. He was sent to Triple-A Fresno from there. Bourque spent the rest of the season being knocked around in the PCL. His high walk rate (6.2 per nine) helped lead to a 5.56 ERA. He’ll be at spring training. The Nationals will try to figure out what went wrong, and if he can help them in the major leagues at some point next season.
Contract status: Under team control.

Sean Doolittle, 33, LHP
Overview
: Washington picked up Doolittle’s $6.5 million team option right after the season ended. He will be the “closer” going into next season. Doolittle fought fatigue and injury last season before finishing with a 113 ERA-plus, the second-lowest of his career. However, he performed well in the postseason. Doolittle struck out eight, walked one, and finished with a 1.74 ERA.
Contract status: Doolittle can become a free agent in 2021.


Roenis Elías, 31, LHP
Overview
: Three innings. That’s it. Elías delivered just a trio of innings before a hamstring injury twice derailed his season. He will be a key factor next season in the bullpen. He also will not be running hard out of the box if he ends up at the plate again.
Contract status: Elías is arbitration-eligible this season and next before becoming a free agent in 2022. So, a low-cost bullpen option.

Koda Glover, 26, RHP
Overview
: Glover again lost a year to injuries. Once a fast-mover through the Nationals’ system, and consideration for a future closing role, Glover threw just 55 ⅓ innings since being called up in 2016. He didn’t touch a major-league mound in 2019. Instead, he spent the entire season in West Palm Beach, Fla., at the team’s spring training facility. He remains a bullpen wild card and not to be relied on.
Contract status: Glover remains arbitration eligible the next three seasons.

Javy Guerra, 34, RHP
Overview
: Washington used Guerra in low-leverage situations or when it needed multiple innings. He became an asset in that sense. He also easily fit into a clubhouse which touted excellent chemistry. Expect him at spring training with a good chance to again be in the bullpen when everyone leaves Florida.
Contract status: Arbitration eligible the next two years.

Tanner Rainey, 26, RHP
Overview
: From the minors to the World Series. Rainey became one of the few relievers Davey Martinez chose to use in the postseason. His role in the 2020 bullpen will be increased. Rainey could enter spring training as the setup man. 
Contract status: Two more years of team control, plus three arbitration-eligible years. 

Hunter Strickland, 31, RHP
Overview
: His time in Washington following a trade-deadline move did not go well. Strickland’s 5.14 ERA across 21 innings was bad enough. But, his three home runs allowed in two postseason innings jettisoned him from the roster for the NLCS and World Series. Washington is searching for the guy who pitched well for San Francisco from 2015-2017.
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2020 and 2021. 

Wander Suero, 28, RHP
Overview
: Suero surprisingly led the team in appearances during the regular season. His focus and pitching plan are both not in line with the potential of his cut fastball. Suero needs a second pitch to use more often — and have better results with. He will be a significant part of the bullpen again next season.
Contract status: Two more years of team control, plus three arbitration-eligible years. 

Austen Williams, 26, RHP
Overview
: Williams spent most of the season injured. Like Glover, he’s a wild-card in the spring. Intriguing, not to be relied on and maybe someone who ends up in the back of the bullpen. 
Contract status: Two more years of team control, plus three arbitration-eligible years. 

Notable free agents: Daniel Hudson, Fernando Rodney

STARTING PITCHERS

Max Scherzer, 35, RHP
Overview
: Once again a Cy Young finalist, Scherzer remains one of the game’s best pitchers. His offseason will be interesting. He admitted he will not feel great “for a while” following Game 7 of the World Series. His back and neck issues limited his innings in 2019. Going forward, the question will be if all his postseason pitches come calling in the middle of next season.
Contract status: Two years (averaging just more than $35 million each) remain on his seven-year, $210 million deal.

Patrick Corbin, 30, LHP
Overview
: Year one of six was very productive. All of Corbin’s numbers were in line with or improvements over the work in Arizona which earned him his contract. He topped the regular-season performance with key versatility in the postseason. Corbin’s ERA-plus last season? 141. The best of his career.
Contract status: Five years remain on his six-year, $140 million contract.

Aníbal Sánchez, 35, RHP
Overview
: Sánchez became arguably the major’s best No. 4 starter last season. His performance in Game 1 of the NLCS put Washington in position to line up all its pitching and rest before the World Series. He also led much of the clubhouse shenanigans.
Contract status: Sánchez is in the second year of his two-year deal. Washington holds a $12.5 million option for 2021.

Joe Ross, 26, RHP
Overview
: Ross went from the minors to the majors, then back; the bullpen to the rotation, then back; and into an emergency World Series start. Martinez said they would prefer Ross to be one thing. Going forward, that’s probably a starter.
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2020 and 2021. 

Erick Fedde, 26, RHP
Overview
: Fedde continues to be a middling pitcher at the major-league level. He turns 27 years old before next season begins. Once again, he will be fighting for the final rotation spot. Pitch command remains a complication.
Contract Status: Fedde is under team control in 2020. Four arbitration years follow.

Austin Voth, 27, RHP
Overview
: Voth provided a breakthrough season in 2019. His fastball velocity increased, as did his confidence when pitching in the majors. He’s a viable back-end rotation option next season based on his 2019 performance.
Contract status: Two more years of team control, plus three arbitration-eligible years.

Kyle McGowin, 27, RHP
Overview
: McGowin did not pitch well at the major-league level last season. His stuff does not appear to translate and his future with the organization — beyond an emergency at the major-league level and pitching at the minor-league level — is in question.
Contract status: Two more years of team control, plus three arbitration-eligible years. 

Notable free agent: Stephen Strasburg

CATCHERS

Tres Berrera, 25
Overview
: Berrera joined the team when rosters expanded and Kurt Suzuki was injured. He had a .704 OPS in 101 games with Double-A Harrisburg. He should be at major-league spring training, then re-assigned to the minors.
Contract status: Under team control.

Raudy Read, 25
Overview
: Read continues to move closer to the major-league roster. Washington likes his power at the plate. However, his catching skills are a major question. Declining Yan Gomes’ option puts Read in play for a possible backup role next season, though it’s more likely Washington signs another veteran to pair with Kurt Suzuki.
Contract status: Two more years of team control, plus three arbitration-eligible years. 

Kurt Suzuki, 36
Overview
: Suzuki became the preferred catcher on the staff for Washington’s premier starters. He also remained a threat to hit a home run. However, he went through injury problems and was the worst catcher in the majors when it came to throwing out runners (his pitchers did not help his cause). He can’t play full-time and needs a significant backup.
Contract status: The Nationals picked up Suzuki’s $6 million option for 2020. He becomes a free agent after the season.

Notable free agent: Yan Gomes

INFIELDERS

Wilmer Difo, 27, multiple
Overview
: Difo remains a 4A player who can be used in multiple positions. The Nationals are intrigued by his athletic potential and dismayed by his mental lapses, which is why Adrián Sánchez became the choice over Difo as the season moved along. He has a chance to land on the 25-man roster again because of his defensive versatility.
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible the next three seasons.

Trea Turner, 26, SS
Overview
: Turner put together another quality season despite a fractured right index finger which nagged him the entire season. Turner could not touch the tip of his finger to the palm of his hand after the World Series and often swung with nine fingers on the bat. Washington’s payroll extrapolations continue to further focus on Turner, who is three years from free agency.
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible the next three seasons.

Jake Noll, 25, 3B, 1B
Overview
: Noll was a surprise member of the 25-man roster on Opening Day. He spent most of the season with Triple-A Fresno, where he finished with a .737 OPS. Noll will be back in major-league camp at spring training. Even without Anthony Rendon, Noll does not appear to have a place on the 25-man roster. 
Contract status: Two more years of team control, plus three arbitration-eligible years.

Carter Kieboom, 22
Overview
: Kieboom’s first visit to the major leagues went poorly. His time with Triple-A Fresno went well at the plate. He finished with a .902 OPS. The question for Kieboom is where he will play in the future. He split time between shortstop and second base most of the season. Kieboom also started nine games at third base for Fresno. He committed four errors in that spot. The most viable chance for him to be on the field next season? As the starting second baseman. Washington can live with subpar defense and a learning curve there if it finds another quality defender at third base. Ideally, he becomes the heir to Turner at shortstop. His defensive play last season showed him far from ready for that title.
Contract status: Under team control.

Adrián Sánchez
Overview
: Sánchez remains versatile and reliable, if not a clear-cut major-leaguer. That status should hold next season. Has a shot at the backup infielder role.
Contract status: One year of team control, four years of arbitration eligibility. 

Notable free agents: Ryan Zimmerman, Howie Kendrick, Asdrúbal Cabrera, Brian Dozier

OUTFIELDERS

Adam Eaton, 30
Overview
: The Nationals picked up his team option for 2020 to keep their outfield intact and inexpensive. He was much more productive at the plate following the All-Star break. Eaton also hit .320 in the World Series. His defense has taken a step back.
Contract status: Washington holds a $10.5 million club option for 2021 or a $1.5 million buyout.

Victor Robles
Overview
: Robles’ rookie year included a spot as a Gold Glove finalist, adventures at the plate and several collisions with inanimate objects. Robles hit 17 home runs and stole 28 bases. His pitch selection will continue to be a focus. Otherwise, he’s a young, aggressive player with burst both in the field and on the bases. 
Contract status: Two more years of team control, plus three arbitration-eligible years. Free agent in 2025.

Juan Soto, 21
Overview
: What needs to be said here? Soto improved at the plate, on the basepaths and in the field during his first full season in the majors. Considering the next improvements should make the league shudder.
Contract status: Two more years of team control, plus three arbitration-eligible years. Free agent in 2025.

Michael A. Taylor, 28
Overview
: Taylor went through a strange season. He lost his job as the fourth outfielder then spent most of the year in Double-A Harrisburg. He was back and on the postseason roster when it began. Next year, he should start again as the fourth outfielder. The story remains the same: multiple tools, not enough contact at the plate.
Contract status: Taylor enters his final arbitration year. He can become a free agent after the season.

Andrew Stevenson, 25
Overview
: Stevenson finished with a 1.081 OPS as a pinch-hitter last season. He remains a good defensive player and speedy baserunner. He will challenge Taylor for the fourth outfield spot.
Contract status: One more year of team control, plus three arbitration-eligible years. Free agent in 2025.

Notable free agent: Gerardo Parra

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Nationals leave Winter Meetings with new fight against complacency underway

Nationals leave Winter Meetings with new fight against complacency underway

SAN DIEGO -- Quiet finally settled over the downtown Hyatt in San Diego on Thursday morning. The baseball industry packed, then left, leaving behind every imaginable facet of the pro machine. Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke Wednesday and a report trying to explain fluctuations with the baseball was delivered. All 30 managers held media sessions across the three days. Recent graduates hunted starts to front office futures. Clubhouse attendants held a meeting of their brethren. Everyone was perpetually stuck in the slow-moving elevators.

In essence, the Nationals’ defense of their World Series title started in southern California while these events transpired around them. They made an enormous move by signing Stephen Strasburg. They continued to manage the third base market, watching warily as they tried to figure out how not to be left short after Anthony Rendon signed a long-term contract with Anaheim and the frenzy for Josh Donaldson began. The Nationals also still need bullpen help.

In addition, a new battle against complacency exists. What’s happening for the Nationals is an offseason unlike any other because they won, and its fresh dynamics include convincing someone full he is still hungry. Ways to do that? Subtle changed mixed with standard procedures. They hope.

Next season always comes calling, loaded with the same 162-game grind, even for those teams who were still pitching on Halloween. Recent champions -- in particular the Nationals -- deployed their starting pitchers differently in the postseason en route to a title. Patrick Corbin made three postseason starts and came out of the bullpen five times. An injection coupled with a chiropractic rescue enabled Max Scherzer’s Game 7 start. Stephen Strasburg threw more pitches than anyone in baseball. 

Boston eased its pitchers into the 2019 season and appeared to pay for it. Their starters rarely threw in spring training games after winning a championship. Three of them threw seven innings or fewer in games during the Grapefruit season. Scherzer threw 26 and 26 ⅔ innings, respectively, the last two spring trainings. So, Mike Rizzo expects standard programming in West Palm Beach, not additional rest.

“I just think that we remind them what we do this stuff for and the elation that we had I think is still going to be with us and for us to feel that way again, we know what it takes to get there,” Rizzo said. “It’s a long hard road and it’s a lot of work. It starts Day 1 spring training and ends the last game. That’s going to be our outlook. We’re going to prepare for spring training like we have every other year. We’re not going to be complacent because we played an extra month of baseball. We’re not going to make any adjustments for preparation of our pitchers.”

Davey Martinez made adjustments. He swung his coaching staff around, moving Bob Henley to first base, Chip Hale to third and Tim Bogar to bench coach. Why? In part to reboot the holdover staff before they begin working with the players.

“Complacency,” Martinez said. “Everybody talks about those World Series blues, and that’s one thing we don’t want. We don’t want to be complacent. There’s going to be a target on our back, so we’ve got to come out and be ready to play from day one. We want these guys to understand that. We’re not just going to sit around and say: ‘Well, we’ve got plenty of time.’ No, the time is from day one. We’re going to get ready for the season, and hopefully do it again.”

Martinez will work with the same premise at spring training: go 1-0. He can still ride other sayings -- like “win your day” -- but the large white flag which said “Conquer” in red letters and traveled with the team is probably due for retirement. “Stay in the fight” fell with the end of the regular season. “Fight finished” isn’t phrasing which can carry to a new season.

“The message is going to be clear: Hey, we're not going to sneak up on anybody this year, that's for sure,” Martinez said. “So we've got to be ready to go from day one. With that being said, I want them to understand, hey, we're going to do business like we've done in the past, and we're just going to try to go 1-0 every day. Why change something that works?”

Why change? That’s the question, and the answer for the defending champions seems to be they don’t want to. Get ready. Stay ready. Try to do it again as if it never happened.

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How Nats fans should view letting Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon walk in back-to-back years

How Nats fans should view letting Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon walk in back-to-back years

When you are as successful as the Washington Nationals, and as good at replenishing your roster with talent as they are, apparently this is the cost of doing business.

For the second straight winter, the Nats have let an elite player walk in free agency. First, it was Bryce Harper, who left to join the Phillies. This time it is Anthony Rendon, who has signed a seven-year contract worth $245 million to play for the Los Angeles Angels.

Both entered free agency as the best position players on the market, perennial MVP candidates who could someday make the Hall of Fame. But the Nationals don't pay position players, they pay starting pitchers and that blueprint helped them win the World Series just six weeks ago.

The fact Rendon got an identical contract from the Angels that Stephen Strasburg did from Washington solidifies the fact they had to choose between them on equal footing. One was not cheaper than the other, this was about big-picture philosophy. This was ownership giving general manager Mike Rizzo a budget and him choosing to allocate money in his rotation and not in his lineup.

Rizzo, of course, has now been a part of two World Series teams that employed that strategy, if you include his days as the scouting director in Arizona. They won the 2001 title and did so with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling leading the way.

The Nationals' decisions to let Harper and Rendon walk should be viewed through that lens. And they should also be stowed away for future reference.

Surely, the idea of letting one player walk to sign another can't be cited ever again. Just because they didn't pay Harper didn't mean they would pay Rendon, and we should know better when looking ahead to Juan Soto, Trea Turner and others.

Those are the main takeaways from Rendon's departure from a baseball perspective, which is the way Rizzo and his front office are paid to view things. But certainly hammering home those details will only do so much to make Nationals fans feel better as they watch another homegrown, likeable star venture off to another team.

What Nationals fans have experienced in these two cases, both within 10 months of each other, is not normal. To lose two players of this caliber in consecutive offseasons is a uniquely tough pill to swallow. That's a lot of jerseys that won't be worn anymore.

Few fanbases have been fortunate enough in recent years to even have two players as good as Harper and Rendon on the same team at the same time. That extends to having them leave. Usually, players as good as they are don't go elsewhere and, if they do, it is because they play for small market teams with low payrolls, and often their exits feel inevitable.

The Nationals aren't a small market team and, as much as some fans might argue, they aren't cheap. But they have acquired so much talent over the past 10 years that they simply can't keep them all.

So, in a way, it can be seen as a good thing. Harper and Rendon left in part because the Nats have a surplus of talent. And, in true Rizzo form, they have replacements waiting in the wings.

When Harper dipped for Philly, there were questions of whether Soto and Victor Robles could replace his production. They not only stepped up to mitigate the loss, but Soto is now by most accounts even better than Harper.

With Rendon now gone, the Nats can turn to Carter Kieboom. He may not play third base, but he's an infielder and a right-handed batter who hits for average and power. He's a top-20 MLB prospect and last season hit .303 with a .902 OPS in Triple-A.

Harper and Rendon aren't the first stars to leave their team in free agency, and Rendon isn't the first to jump ship right after winning a World Series. In L.A., he will join arguably the most famous case of that, Albert Pujols who after winning a title with the Cardinals in 2011 left to sign with the Angels.

Nationals fans should just take solace in the fact the team's front office is always thinking ahead. Plenty of talent remains on the roster and reinforcements are on the way.

Just like how fans became further attached to Rendon when Harper left, it's time to do the same with Soto or someone else. As the churn continues, enjoy them while they last.

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