The Nationals could open spring training today with the pitching staff they already have in place and be content with that. Not thrilled, mind you, but content.
They have five returning starters, several intriguing fallback options and a top prospect on track to return from Tommy John surgery in June. They have four fairly established back-end relievers, plus a number of other arms good enough to fill out the rest of an Opening Day bullpen.
It wouldn’t be the best pitching staff in baseball, not by a longshot. But it would be a full staff of 13 major-league pitchers, with no obvious outliers taking up roster spots who clearly didn’t deserve to be there.
Thing is, spring training doesn’t start today. There are still two weeks to go until pitchers and catchers report to West Palm Beach. And with a host of free agents still unsigned, there’s still time for the Nats to add to their pitching staff if they so desire.
The real question, then, is: Do they desire to add to their pitching staff? And if so, how much are they willing to spend to do it?
This offseason of stagnation has seen very little action. The Nationals have to date signed three major-league free agents for a grand total of $9.25 million. Yes, a grand total of $9.25 million. That’s $5 million for Joey Gallo (half of which is a buyout of an $8 million mutual option for 2025 that almost certainly won’t be picked up), plus $2.25 million for Dylan Floro and $2 million for Nick Senzel.
That’s it. The team is currently looking at a payroll of roughly $120 million, but when you count only dollars to be paid in 2024 (in other words, minus deferrals) it drops to about $96 million. That’s not much.
So there would seem to be some money to spend if the situation presents itself.
The front office and coaching staff went into the offseason with a stated desire to add to the rotation. For now, there’s an Opening Day quintet of Josiah Gray, MacKenzie Gore, Patrick Corbin, Jake Irvin and Trevor Williams, with Cade Cavalli coming a few months later. A free agent would most likely bump Williams to long relief (a role some in the organization believe he’s best suited for anyway).
Among the free-agent starters still available who would be obvious upgrades: Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Mike Clevinger, Domingo German, Matthew Boyd and Michael Lorenzen.
There could also still be bullpen moves to come. The Nationals made one such move Wednesday night, signing veteran right-hander Robert Gsellman to a minor-league deal, a source familiar with the agreement confirmed. Gsellman, the former Mets swingman who spent last season pitching in Japan, would receive $900,000 if he makes the Opening Day roster.
Owner of a 4.60 ERA and 1.399 WHIP in 184 big-league games with the Mets and Cubs, Gsellman hasn’t been a regular major-league pitcher since 2019. He feels like a longshot to make the club this spring, though stranger things have happened.