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Bryce who? Adam Eaton confident in Nationals roster, with or without Harper

Bryce who? Adam Eaton confident in Nationals roster, with or without Harper

On a slow, rainy first day in Florida, Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton was still unable to hold back his excitement for the upcoming season.

Even if news - or lack thereof- of a certain former Nationals player is still looming.

But that didn't dampen Eaton's enthusiasm for the roster the Nationals already have in place.

“I think we’ve got a great club here,” he said on Wednesday.

He added throughout the interview:

  • “It’s going to be an exciting group." 
     
  • It’s going to be an athletic group." 
     
  • It’s going to be interesting, a very exciting year here.
     
  • “Exciting group of guys.”


Eaton’s positivity was especially noticeable as it comes off the heels of a disappointing year in Washington, followed by a long, drawn-out free agency period with its biggest star.

Nationals fans have talked all winter about how the roster has few weaknesses. Eaton, who compared his teammates and himself to fans in terms of how they follow along with offseason moves, ran through almost every spot on the roster when gushing about the team’s depth and talent.

“Pitching staff’s great, you know bullpen has come along nicely. Up the middle with Dozier, Howie coming back, Trea, and Tony, and Zim, and then you’ve got the young bucks in the outfield,” he said.

Eaton spoke earnestly about the talent in the outfield, clearly thrilled with the guys the Nats already have.

“I consider myself a young buck, kind of, still,” Eaton said with a grin. “And Mikey roaming out there, young buck as well. Those guys are all kids.”

Of course, just running back the same roster, sans Harper, wouldn’t instill too much confidence in the fanbase. Eaton was sure to also address the new additions coming to Washington.

“You get a guy like Dozier, Kurt, Yan, and all those guys coming in. Signing [Hellickson] back in the last week, then you’ve got Barraclough and Rosenthal," he said. "Some really big signings, veteran guys who love to compete. Kind of reloaded, in a sense. Kendrick is almost like another free agent signing in my opinion.”

Of course, that doesn’t include the team’s biggest signing of the offseason to date, Patrick Corbin, who helps solidify one of the best rotations in baseball.  

Eaton knows his role, and the team’s outlook, could change drastically with a potential return for Bryce Harper.

But right now, he’s still confident and excited about where the Nationals are headed in 2019, with or without their biggest star from the last half-decade.

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Don't worry Nationals fans, Anthony Rendon was never going to be a Dodger

Don't worry Nationals fans, Anthony Rendon was never going to be a Dodger

While Nationals fans are understandably disappointed Anthony Rendon is no longer a member of the Nationals, they can rest easy knowing he didn't see himself signing the the NL rival Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers never made an offer to Rendon, per The Athletic, after "sensing that he didn’t want to play in Los Angeles." He instead signed with the Los Angeles Angels, inking a seven-year, $245 million deal to play for the California team that receives considerably less media attention than its in-state rival.

Now entrenched in the AL on the other side of the country, Rendon won't face the Nationals very often nor will his team's play have any effect on Washington's playoff chances from year to year. It was a best-case scenario for fans after it became likely he wouldn't be returning to Washington.

After being spurned by Rendon and losing out on top free-agent pitchers Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, the Dodgers are still looking to make their first big move of the offseason.

There's still plenty of time for them to make a move, but Los Angeles can expect little sympathy from Nationals fans that Rendon won't be suiting up in Dodger blue for the next seven years.

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Nationals trading for a third baseman is possible -- as long as it’s not Nolan Arenado

Nationals trading for a third baseman is possible -- as long as it’s not Nolan Arenado

Here’s the list of players on the Nationals’ active roster who could play third base: Wilmer Difo, Jake Noll, Adrián Sánchez, Howie Kendrick, Carter Kieboom. Career major-league starts at the position: Difo, 29; Noll, one; Sánchez, nine; Kendrick, 25; Kieboom, zero. 

Such is the state of third base for the defending World Series champions. Not good. 

Which makes Josh Donaldson’s agent smile and any semi-skilled third baseman with a pulse a possible target. Possible trades? Count the Nationals in. On most. Not on Nolan Arenado. That’s a non-starter because Washington is not going to send assets (prospects) for a contract it was unwilling to give Anthony Rendon in the first place. Zero chance. Zilch.

However, Kris Bryant is more intriguing depending on the years and ask -- as always with trades. Beyond him and Kyle Seager, is there another third baseman the Nationals could pursue in a trade? The question takes on weight because of the aforementioned toothless list of in-house candidates and shallow free-agent talent pool beyond Donaldson.

Any trade consideration needs to begin with an understanding of the parameters Washington is working from. Last season, Rendon’s one-year deal to avoid arbitration earned him $18.8 million. When Washington looks at the cost for its next third baseman, the number will be similar to last season’s cost for Rendon. A bump in the competitive balance tax threshold, plus savings at first base and catcher, provide the Nationals wiggle room for increases in spots. So, $18-25 million annually for a third baseman is in play.

Second, the Nationals’ farm system needs to be taken into account. Their 2018 first-round pick, Mason Denaburg, had shoulder problems last year. Mike Rizzo said at the Winter Meetings that Denaburg is healthy and progressing. But, the early shoulder irritation for a high school pitcher who also had problems his senior year with biceps tendinitis provides his stock pause. He’s a would-be trade chip. So is Kieboom.

But, what is Kieboom’s value? What damage did it receive during his rocky, and brief, appearance in the majors last season? Did his potent hitting in the Pacific Coast League after being sent back mitigate his big-league struggles? 

Beyond Kieboom, the farm system’s next tier is manned by Luis Garcia, 2019 first-round pick Jackson Rutledge, Wil Crowe and Tim Cate, among others. Only Garcia is part of MLB.com’s top-100 prospects list (which is more of a guide than an industry standard).

So, when Bryant or Seager -- or anyone not named Arenado -- are mentioned, know where the Nationals are coming from. If they are positioned to take on money, they don’t want to use assets to do it (this is the Donaldson Scenario). If they can save money, find a solid player and retain the few high-end assets, then a trade could be in play (this would be the Seager Scenario, if Seattle pays some of the contract). 

The Bryant Scenario is the most appealing and challenging. He’s the best player of the group. However, acquiring him would be high-cost and short-term. Bryant has two years remaining before he can become a free agent -- with an outside shot at becoming a free agent after next season because of a grievance he filed against the Cubs for service-time manipulation. Obtaining him would likely focus on multiple pitching prospects.

There is no Arenado Scenario. Just a reminder.

Piled together, Washington is in a tough spot. What it has is not enough. What it needs will be costly.

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