The Nationals plan to distribute spending across their roster this offseason rather than bid heavily on a star free agent, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported Tuesday on MLB Network.
“The real question…is what are they willing to spend?” Rosenthal asked MLB Network host Brian Kenny on MLB Now. “We all know the Lerner family is one of the wealthiest in the game, as far as ownership is concerned. But it doesn’t mean they’re going to put that money right back into the team, especially after having no fans last year.
“If they can spend, then the question becomes OK do they focus on a bigger name like a [Kris] Bryant or [DJ] LeMahieu or [J.T.] Realmuto, or do they spread the money around? My understanding is they’re going to try to spread the money around because they have more than one hole.”
Washington had the ninth-highest payroll in MLB last season, per Spotrac’s payroll tracker. However, the team still struggled to defend its World Series title during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, finishing with a 26-34 record that had them tied for fourth place in the NL East.
The Nationals then saw closer Sean Doolittle, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, catcher Kurt Suzuki and utility man Asdrúbal Cabrera all hit free agency before declining options on right fielder Adam Eaton, starter Aníbal Sánchez and first basemen Howie Kendrick and Eric Thames. The flurry of exits left GM Mike Rizzo with several holes that will need filling this winter.
Rosenthal also reported that the Rizzo would be meeting with the Lerners on Tuesday to discuss the team’s budget for this upcoming season. While the Nationals have been linked as potential suitors for Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant and free agent infielder DJ LeMahieu, Rosenthal called it “unlikely” for Washington to land either player.
Washington has already made a few cost-effective moves this offseason, non-tendering Michael A. Taylor to make room for the cheaper Andrew Stevenson as the team’s fourth outfielder and signing minor leaguer Sam Clay to an MLB deal that would pay him the league minimum in 2020. With the non-tender deadline set for Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET, the free agent pool is expected to gain a few names that could be potential fits for the Nationals as low-cost alternatives to star free agents.