After another fantastic campaign ending in sorrow, the Nats should change things up
The end of the season does not just mean another year short of the World Series is over, it is also another tick of the clock on the amount of time left for Bryce Harper in a Nationals jersey. Without a question, next off-season will be the most anticipated since the free agency’s of Greinke, Scherzer and even Albert Pujols. Bryce is a shoe-in for $500 million and I know most teams cannot afford that price, especially Washington.
D.C. sports fans are in a complete daze this morning after the seemingly terrible loss last night in game 5 of the NLDS. Somehow this team cannot be clutch in any series. Yet, there are takeaways from this series that can help Washington this off-season and next year which will be their final attempt with this core to win a World Series.
Michael A Taylor
Michael A had the two most clutch hits in this series and has proven that he should stay in the lineup next season. Alas, with Adam Eaton returning and the youthful top prospect, Victor Robles, ready to play, Taylor will be the fourth outfielder again. Taylor could become a trade piece to try and add a star player at the deadline. He would be the major league talent some team would be looking for to pair with prospects. If I was in charge, I would not trade Michael A Taylor too early, if at all. He would be a decent outfielder to consider in the 2019 season if Harper leaves.
Gio Gonzalez should be our fourth starter. Washington needs to hit the market looking for a number two or three rotation guy. Joe Ross has not proven to last a full season and Tanner Roark is best at the 4th or 5th rotation spot because there is not much pressure on him. The problem is not necessarily Gio, but less pressure on him would help this team during the postseason.
2019 Guaranteed Contracts
Here is the big blow; the Nationals only have four players with contracts for the 2019 season — this does not include arbitration eligible players. The four are Adam Eaton ($8.4 million), Ryan Zimmerman ($18 million), Stephen Strasburg ($38.3 million), and Max Scherzer ($42.1 million — YIKES). Turnover always happens in baseball but the Nationals are in line to lose a ton of production following the 2018 season and with yearly contract numbers for Strasburg and Scherzer, this team cannot necessarily rebuild with them on the books. Therefore, it looks like they will try to figure a way to retool the roster.
Jayson Werth is Gone
The first major off-season contract the Nats gave to a player is up. Werth was not worth the money when the team signed him but his veteran presence made him more valuable off the field. Injuries kept Werth from fully living up to the contract but the heist is over. $21 million comes off the books and will go to hopefully a starter or towards an Anthony Rendon extension to cover his two remaining arbitration years.
Bullpen is 2018 stable…barely
With Madson and Doolittle under contract next season, the Nationals are able to keep two trade deadline acquisitions for a full year. These two guys helped stabilize a terrible bullpen. Shawn Kelley, Koda Glover, and Sammy Solis will also return. This organization needs young, powerful arms that can manage to keep Washington in sync. Here comes Erick Fedde.
What DC needs: Another ‘Nate Karns’ Deal
Anyone remember the young arm of Nate Karns? I do. The young arm in 2014 was moved to Tampa Bay that gave us Jose Lobaton and Felipe Rivero and another player. Rivero ended up getting moved in 2016 when the team acquired Mark Melancon for last years run. Lobaton has been a decent back up catcher but a great clubhouse guy, which you need. The Nationals need to find their next Nate Karns deal and get a couple of sneaky prospects that can help in 2019. Is this a Brian Goodwin deal? Is this a Trevor Kott or Koda Glover deal? I don’t know.
Rebuild the Bench
Stephen Drew is a free agent and Adam Lind has a $5 million team option. The Nats could pick up that option and it would help this bench. This team will need a new infielder. I understand the value of a veteran like Drew, so if this team continues to hold onto Wilmer Difo, they might as well keep Drew. I would move Difo to get a new, young, dynamic infielder up.
The Position Player Pipeline
This team has some very talented young players hanging out in AA and A-ball from this season. A few had September call-ups but they will look to make an impact potentially in 2018 but more than likely, 2019.
Victor Robles will be the odds on favorite to replace Jayson Werth in left field. The number 8 overall prospect by MLB.com, made the postseason roster and got into a few games. The twenty year old will have his hands full but luckily he has Michael A Taylor to take games and pressure off him if the stage is a big in April and May.
Raudy Read is a decent catching prospect that the team could try to call-up in June or July depending on the status of Lobaton. He also was a September call-up and had 3 hits in 11 at-bats.
Jose Marmolejos is a first base/outfield youngster who showed up in AA Harrisburg this year. He had the best slugging percentage on the team (of players with 70 or more games) while appearing in 107 games, a great sample size.
Andrew Stephenson is a quick rising outfielder. The 2015 2nd round pick made appearances for the Nationals this year but played most of his games in AAA. Stephenson could get the chance to compete for the open outfielder spot but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Stephenson is too good to stash on a bench; its better to give him regular at-bats in AAA again with him competing in 2019 for a starting spot.
Carter Kieboom is a 19-year old SS who could be groomed to play second base in 2019 or 2020, especially if the Nationals decide not to keep Daniel Murphy after the 2018 season.
The Pitching Pipeline
Eddie Fedde has been the pitching prospect the Nationals have held onto over others who have been moved to acquire talent. This means that Rizzo and company are ready to see Fedde in the majors in 2018.
Austin Voth still needs work before he can sniff the majors. He still ranks in the top 10 of organizational prospect lists which could make him a ‘Nate Karns deal’ candidate in a year or two.
A.J. Cole is another one of those ‘Nate Karns deal’ folks who could net the Nationals something. Cole has pitched for the big league club and will be called up ion 2018 for injuries but I believe he is ready to be the Karns deal after 2018.
Stay Away from Free Agents
Washington fans, before you try to give some player or pitcher a massive contract this off-season, pause and think. This team has young kids who need to get up and show their worth. This team is set up around the diamond and in the outfield for another year. This core gets one more shot to do something or to just let us down for the um-teenth time. Just pause folks.
2019 will be Rough
Once Bryce Harper gets his $500 million and Murphy gets a massive deal elsewhere, we will have to find new toys to play with and we may take a step back. But insert Robles and Kieboom and this franchise has two more studs to play alongside Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon. 2020 could reignite all hope.
Believe in the future because we are bound to win at some point
Bottom line Nationals fans, through all of the disappointment, we still can field a competitive team. A few tweaks here and there will keep us near the top of the division and maybe, just maybe we can surprise ourselves and see our team win something.