Los Angeles and Tampa Bay start the World Series on Tuesday night. In a week, Major League Baseball will have a new champion. And, both teams will start making their changes afterward, like everyone across the league.
The Nationals will be watching the series not just for the baseball, but for prospective free agents. An active offseason is ahead after a downtrodden year which resulted in the Nationals being tied for last in the National League East Division. They need help.
So, here are three prospective free agents to watch during this year’s version of the Fall Classic:
Justin Turner: 3B, Dodgers
Turner will be entering his age-36 season next year. However, the Nationals are not afraid of signing older players, especially ones with such a distinct track record. Turner has a .298 average and .884 OPS from ages 30-35, which is actually better production than his career average.
Los Angeles was a perfect fit for him. He becomes a free agent after seven years there and while becoming one of the most consistent players in the league. He twice finished in the top 10 of the National League MVP race.
The issue will be how much the Nationals are willing to pay him, and for how long. Do they want a one-year placeholder at third base because they think Carter Kieboom will become a steady major-league player? Do they want two years of Turner in an attempt to mitigate his age and pair him with their high-end starters?
Turner was scheduled to make $19 million had 2020 been normal. What will he accept on the open market? Probably a similar payment.
Joc Pederson: OF, Dodgers
Home runs and a low average. Those are the traits of Pederson’s seven years in the league as he is set to become a free agent.
The Nationals do need another outfielder since they are unlikely to pick up Adam Eaton’s $10.5 million contract option. They also need more left-handed hitting.
Though, Pederson would be more patch than solution. He’s essentially a platoon player because of his heavy splits (just a .576 career OPS against left-handed pitching). The Nationals need an everyday player in the outfield. But, at first base? Maybe there’s a marriage there. Pederson has played the position 19 times in the major leagues.
Charlie Morton: SP, Rays
There are two huge “ifs” around Morton. He becomes a free agent if Tampa Bay declines his $15 million option for next season. He becomes an active free agent if he decides to continue to play. Morton may retire, something he publicly discussed before the season began.
If -- there’s that word again -- Tampa Bay declines the option and Morton decides to continue, then he is a target for the Nationals. They need a fourth starter. He’s a great fit -- prospectively.
Much like Turner, the terms are the issue. Max Scherzer has one year remaining on his contract. How much will having the trio of Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin for only one more season influence how the Nationals want to spend this offseason? Would they be willing to pay Morton $15 million for one year to be the fourth starter?
Morton, like many, did not have a stellar 2020 season. He dealt with right shoulder inflammation and mediocre results. Which may push him into the Nationals price range.
The subpar regular season has not carried to the postseason, where Morton is once again dominating. He’s allowed one earned run in three starts.