More on Nats' newest international class


With the international signing period opening on Sunday, the Nationals agreed to terms with 14 amateur free agents.

A lot was made of the inclusion of Elian Soto, the younger brother of former Nationals superstar outfielder Juan Soto who flipped his intention to sign with the Mets a year ago just months before his older brother was traded to the Padres.

But the younger Soto, who also hits from the left side and was interestingly labeled as an outfielder in the Nats’ official release after also playing third base last year, is just one player. And quite frankly, he is not as highly regarded as his brother and fellow signees of this class.

So let’s take a look at three other players the Nationals signed over the weekend who are highly thought of in this last group of international signings.

Manuel Cabrera is a 16-year-old shortstop out of the Dominican Republic who reportedly signed for $500,000 and is MLB Pipeline’s No. 39 ranked prospect in this class. Scouting reports say he has the defensive abilities, including a strong arm, to play any position in the infield and has the bat speed and strength from the right side of the plate to have an upside to hit at the top of the lineup. He’s also been praised for his baseball IQ.

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Elian Soto headlines Nats' latest international signings

Elian Soto headlines Nats' latest international signings

The international signing period officially opened this morning, an avenue the Nationals have been traditionally successful in using to acquire young talent.

To open the 2023 signing period, the Nationals announced they have agreed to terms with 14 international free agents: right-handers Jose Feliz, Leuris Portorreal and Enyerber Riveo; left-hander Juan Reyes; catcher Agustin Marcano; infielders Manuel Cabrera, Eikel Joaquin and Edwin Solano; and outfielders Andy Acevedo, Carlos Batista, Hector Liriano, Juan Obispo, Elian Soto and Carlos Tavares.

Elian Soto is Juan Soto’s younger brother who made headlines this time last year when he reportedly flipped his intention to sign with the Mets to the Nats. That became official today as he reportedly agreed to a deal worth a $225,000 signing bonus and an additional $200,000 for a scholarship grant. Last summer’s trade with the Padres seemingly did not have an impact on the younger Soto’s feelings toward signing with the Nationals organization.

Like his brother, Elian demonstrates power from the left side of the plate while playing third base and the outfield. Also like Juan, Elian is represented by super agent Scott Boras, who just negotiated a $23 million salary for the 24-year-old superstar this season with the Padres through the arbitration process.

But unlike his brother, Elian is not considered a top prospect in this class.

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Dickerson out to prove he can still play


Corey Dickerson is the latest veteran to sign with the Nationals. And he brings the most experience.

While Jeimer Candelario (29 years old), Trevor Williams (30) and Dominic Smith (27) have played seven, seven and six major league seasons, respectively, Dickerson, 33, is entering his 11th season in the bigs, now with his eighth different club.

Unlike the Nats’ other three major league signings this offseason, Dickerson isn’t looking to kickstart his career for the long run with a fresh start on a new team. He’s more out to show that he can still play.

A former All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner, Dickerson, who has spent time with the Rockies, Rays, Pirates, Phillies, Marlins, Blue Jays and Cardinals, says he still has something to prove to the baseball world.

“That I'm a good baseball player,” Dickerson said when asked what he wants to prove this year. He spoke via Zoom with reporters after signing a one-year, $2.25 million deal with the Nats on Tuesday. “That I can do more than just one thing. I think I can still hit for power. A lot of people have written me off with that. … I still think I can hit for power, I can do many things well.”

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Smith looking forward to "fresh start" in Washington

Dominic Smith Mets gray

Rebuilding teams and reeling veterans are perfect matches for each other. Bring experience and leadership to a young clubhouse while playing every day to rejuvenate your career while the team develops prospects.

It’s often a mutually beneficial relationship.

The Nationals are certainly banking on that being true as this is how they’ve filled holes on their roster with three of their major league signings so far this offseason.

Jeimer Candelario, signed to a one-year deal in November, was non-tendered by the Tigers after six seasons. Trevor Williams, signed to a two-year deal last month, entered free agency knowing his role with the Mets was limited, either in the rotation or bullpen.

And Dominic Smith, who signed a one-year deal this week, was looking for a fresh start after being non-tendered by the Mets.

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Important candidates wishing to bounce back from injury

rainey throws white

It's Christmas morning, and all who celebrate are rushing to see if their holiday wishes were placed under the tree.

For the Nationals, that could have been any number of things coming off a 107-loss year.

But like every major league team over the course of a 162-game season, the Nationals dealt with their fair share of injuries this year.

In fact, they placed 24 different players on the injured list for 25 different stints, with Stephen Strasburg landing on the 10-day IL at the start of the season while recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome, and then on the 60-day IL with a stress reaction in his ribs after his lone start in June.

Those 24 players combined to miss 1,778 games for the Nationals in 2022. So like many, the Nats may be wishing for better health in 2023.

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Looking back at the Josh Bell trade

bell celebrates hr cherry

Two years ago today, the Nationals made a surprise acquisition that created a busier Christmas Eve than we were expecting in the D.C. area. General manager Mike Rizzo was able to send two minor league pitchers to the Pirates for All-Star first baseman Josh Bell.

While the timing was surprising, the acquisition itself was not. The Nationals had made the first baseman a potential trade target for a while, with the expectation at the time being he would get a majority of the starts at first while Ryan Zimmerman would be the backup if he returned for his 17th campaign after sitting out the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Rizzo won praise for the early Christmas present to Nats fans in acquiring a power bat to provide protection for Juan Soto and Trea Turner in the lineup with two years left of team control and without giving up any top prospects. At the time, the Nats’ most coveted prospects were Cade Cavalli, Jackson Rutledge, Carter Kieboom and Yasel Antuna.

Only Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean were required to bring Bell to Washington. At the time, Crowe was 26 years old and the Nats’ No. 4 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, and Yean was 19 and the club’s No. 6 prospect.

Crowe had made his major league debut that summer, posting an 11.88 ERA and 2.640 WHIP in 8 ⅓ innings over his three starts. A second-round pick in 2017 out of South Carolina, the right-hander was expected to compete as a rotation depth piece the following spring.

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Downs adds needed infield depth with potential for high upside


The Nationals’ latest waiver claim was noteworthy in that it was a well known name that was surprisingly available.

Jeter Downs, whom the Nats claimed on outright waivers from the Red Sox yesterday, is known for being a former top shortstop prospect and being included in two major trades since the Reds made him the No. 32 overall pick in the 2017 draft.

He was grouped with Homer Bailey and Josiah Gray – the latter now his Nationals teammate – in a Dec. 21, 2018 trade to the Dodgers for Kyle Farmer, Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig and Alex Wood. Then on Feb. 10, 2020, he was famously included in the package with Alex Verdugo and Connor Wong that went to the Red Sox for Mookie Betts and David Price.

A central piece in two major trades and a highly rated prospect before turning 22 years old, Downs was, surprisingly, exposed to waivers when the Red Sox designated him for assignment last week after signing outfielder Masataka Yoshida. But of course, there’s a reason for that. His struggles in the Red Sox system and during his brief stint in the majors forced Boston to give up on the now 24-year-old.

Now, almost four years to the day since his trade to Los Angeles, Downs joins a Nationals organization where he is reunited with fellow former Dodgers prospects Gray and Keibert Ruiz. And he brings much-needed infield depth, whether he’s on the major league roster or in the minor league system.

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Nats claim infielder Jeter Downs from Red Sox

Jeter Downs Red Sox swing white

Just three days before Christmas, general manager Mike Rizzo remains busy checking things off his list.

The Nationals announced this afternoon they have claimed infielder Jeter Downs on outright waivers from the Red Sox. Downs was designated for assignment last week when the Red Sox signed outfielder Masataka Yoshida to a five-year, $90 million contract.

Downs, 24, was born in San Andrés, Colombia, where his father was a professional baseball player. He was named after Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, and ironically would go on to record his first major league hit and RBI then score the game-winning run against the Yankees and hit his first big league home run at Yankee Stadium this season.

He was a 2017 first-round pick (32nd overall) by the Reds out of Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami Gardens, Fla. He has since been traded twice, first with current Nationals starting pitcher Josiah Gray and Homer Bailey to the Dodgers in exchange for Kyle Farmer, Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood and cash in December 2018. But Downs is probably most known for being a central piece in the package along with Alex Verdugo and Connor Wong to go to Boston in the Mookie Betts and David Price trade in February 2020.

Primarily a shortstop, Downs was considered a top prospect around the sport. He was the Red Sox’s No. 1 and No. 2 prospect in 2020 and 2021, respectively, and was ranked as high as the No. 44 prospect in baseball two years ago, per MLB Pipeline.

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New additions taking on leadership roles with Nats

Jeimer Candelario Tigers swing white

The Nationals’ offseason to date has been just as expected: quiet.

There hasn’t been a lot of activity on their front with the major league roster. More additions are on the way as we get closer to the start of spring training in February, likely in the form of minor league deals with invitations to major league camp. Just like last week’s minor league deal with Matt Adams.

But general manager Mike Rizzo hasn’t been completely dormant. He signed third baseman Jeimer Candelario to a one-year, $5 million contract and right-hander Trevor Williams to a two-year, $13 million deal within the last month.

Candelario is expected to be the starting third baseman, while also filling in some at first base and as the designated hitter. Williams has been told he’s been brought in to join the starting rotation after serving more as a swing man with the Mets this year.

Both guys, however, are also expected to take on a role that may be a little foreign to them: leader. And they both mentioned they discussed it with manager Davey Martinez during their introductory press conferences with the local media over Zoom last week.

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What latest roster moves say about Nats' player development


The Nationals made a handful of roster moves yesterday, headlined by officially announcing re-signing right-hander Erasmo Ramirez to a one-year deal. To make room on the 40-man roster, right-hander they designated Gerardo Carrillo for assignment.

Also part of the news dump was the Nats announcing they agreed to terms on a one-year contract with Tanner Rainey, avoiding arbitration, and that Lucius Fox cleared outright waivers and has been assigned to Triple-A Rochester. The Nats designated Fox for assignment last week when they claimed right-hander A.J. Alexy off waivers from the Rangers. A lot of moving parts for a simple one-year signing. But you can’t blame general manager Mike Rizzo for getting as much work done as possible before the holidays.

While we shouldn’t expect more news the rest of the week (my famous last words while I’m covering for Mark Zuckerman through Christmas), we can look back on the changes made to the Nationals roster so far this offseason and what they mean in the big picture.

Carrillo was the second of the four players the Nationals received from the Dodgers in exchange for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner at the 2021 deadline to be designated for assignment this year. The Nats designated Donovan Casey for assignment in August when they claimed left-hander Jake McGee from the Brewers. Casey cleared waivers and was assigned to Triple-A Rochester two days later.

After a year that was limited to 21 appearances overall due to injuries and saw him post an 11.32 ERA in 10 games at Double-A Harrisburg, Carrillo is expected to take a similar route as Casey and Fox, going unclaimed on waivers and being re-assigned to one of the Nats’ minor league affiliates.

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Nats bring back Ramirez, designate Carrillo for assignment

ramirez pitching white

The Nationals didn’t have a lot of high-profile free agents set to depart the team this offseason, but they have retained one they valued a lot in 2022.

Erasmo Ramirez is returning to Washington on a one-year deal for 2023, the team announced this afternoon after reports the two sides were in agreement surfaced last week. Ramirez needed to pass a physical before it could become official.

The 32-year-old could earn up to $2 million with incentives this year, as confirmed by our own Mark Zuckerman.

Signed to a minor league deal in March and only earning a modest $700,000 this year, Ramirez filled a variety of roles for manager Davey Martinez. The right-hander was a bridge arm covering multiple innings between starters and the back end of the bullpen, he pitched high-leverage innings late in games during the season’s last couple of months and he even made two emergency starts against the Braves.

His 2.92 ERA, 1.077 WHIP and 4.36 strikeout-to-walk rate over 86 ⅓ innings earned him Pitcher of the Year honors, as voted on by Nationals media members. He was one of only three major league relievers with an ERA under 3.00 while pitching at least 75 innings, joining the Rangers’ Brock Burke and the Angels’ Jaime Barria.

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Is there such thing as too many swing men?

Erasmo Ramirez throwing blue

Versatility has been the name of the Nationals’ roster building game ever since they started the organizational rebuilding process two summers ago. They value players who can play multiple positions.

Find jacks of all trades and have them fill a variety of roles.

That works pretty well for position players (infielders who can play all over and outfielders who can fill all three spots). But you might run into a master of none situation when it comes to pitching.

While the Nationals fared very well this season utilizing pitchers out of the bullpen in multiple ways, is there such a thing as too many swing men?

Get your mind out of the gutter. We’re talking baseball here.

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Candelario relishes opportunity to reunite with Martinez

Jeimer Candelario Tigers swing white

The baseball world is like a circle. Sooner or later, you come back around to work with someone you know from your past.

The Nationals have taken this approach while filling roster holes: Bringing back bounce back candidates who used to play on the team or have a connection to someone already on the staff from a past gig.

Jeimer Candelario is the latest example, reuniting with manager Davey Martinez from their time with the Cubs after the third baseman signed a one-year, $5 million contract three weeks ago. Candelario spent parts of the 2016 and 2017 seasons with the Cubs while Martinez served as then-manager Joe Maddon’s bench coach.

Candelario relishes the opportunity to reunite with Martinez, now the head man in Washington who had a big impact on the 22-year-old infielder’s development on the North Side of Chicago.

“It means a lot, it means a lot, because in 2016, we were champs,” Candelario said last week during an introductory Zoom session with Nationals reporters. “I was not on the team, but I was in the (organization). And I came up that year. It was a special, special team. Really good coaching staff and he was part of it. He was a really good part of that team.”

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Thanks to reliable sources, Williams excited to join young Nats

Trevor Williams Mets throw side white

It’s a bit unusual for a seven-year veteran to depart a playoff team and sign a multi-year deal with a rebuilding organization.

But that’s exactly what Trevor Williams did when he agreed to a two-year, $13 million deal with the Nationals over the weekend after spending the last two seasons with the Mets.

Although he was left off the Mets roster for the Wild Card Series against the Padres, the 30-year-old got his first taste of a pennant race this year and was expected to be included on the Division Series roster had New York advanced.

Now he’s coming to D.C., where the Nats are coming off their third straight last-place finish in the National League East. But the right-hander understands the situation and is comfortable committing to the Nats for two years.

With such a young team in a rebuilding phase, Williams doesn’t know too many current Nationals. He had only just met manager Davey Martinez over the phone earlier this week. But he is familiar with Josh Bell, who was Williams’ teammate for five years in Pittsburgh and spent the last 1 ½ seasons in Washington, and Craig Stammen, the former Nationals draft pick who spent the first seven years of his big league career in D.C. and knows Williams from playing for his hometown Padres over the last six years.

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More on Rule 5 draft pick Thad Ward


The Rule 5 draft is a resource hardly utilized by the Nationals in the past. In fact, with the No. 1 overall pick Wednesday, they made their first selection in 12 years.

But for a rebuilding team with such a high selection at such a low cost, it made too much sense for the Nats not to take a flier on a Rule 5 player and give him a shot at staying on the roster throughout the upcoming season.

So with the No. 1 pick in the Rule 5 draft, the Nationals selected right-hander Thad Ward from the Red Sox.

If you don’t know the drill by now – and no one would blame you because the Rule 5 draft is complicated and Nats fans haven’t had to worry about it in over a decade – the Nationals pay $100,000 to the Red Sox to acquire Ward and then have to keep him on the major league roster for the entire 2023 season. He has to spend at least 90 days on the active roster, not including the injured list, or offer him back to the Red Sox for $50,000.

It’s a classic low-cost, high-reward situation.

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Winter Meetings Day 3: Rule 5 draft, Judge returns to Yankees (Nats select Ward)


It’s hard to believe, but we’re already at the last full day of the Winter Meetings. The Rule 5 draft is the last event of the week and marks the end of baseball’s biggest offseason gathering.

In years past, the Rule 5 draft has been held on the Thursday morning of the Winter Meetings. But they bumped it up to Wednesday afternoon this year, meaning there probably won’t be a whole lot of commotion tomorrow morning before everyone leaves for the airport.

The Nationals are expected to make their first pick in the Rule 5 draft in 12 years with the No. 1 overall pick later today. Thanks to a decade of success, they didn’t feel the need to use a spot on their active roster on a fringe major league player.

Mark Zuckerman had a preview of the Rule 5 draft this morning and check back for the selection later today.

Elsewhere in the baseball world, the big news earlier this morning was Aaron Judge agreeing to return to the Yankees on a nine-year, $360 million deal, multiple outlets confirmed.

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For Nats, winning at major league level is still important


Offseasons are tough for clubs and fans alike during a rebuild like the one the Nationals are in right now. It’s the kind they haven’t endured in well over a decade.

After the Nats decided to embark on this rebuild at the 2021 trade deadline, the following offseason was thrown off by last winter’s lockout. Now in their first regular offseason in a rebuild, the team isn’t expected to be handing out some of the top free agent contracts or acquiring the best players available for trade this winter.

But the Nationals themselves are expecting to be better next season at the major league level on the heels of one of the worst campaigns in franchise history.

At 55-107 this year, the Nationals finished with their worst record since coming to D.C. in 2005, and the worst record in Nationals/Expos franchise history since 1976 (also 55-107). All along, general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Martinez have stressed the importance of acquiring and developing young players for the future.

But on the first day of the Winter Meetings, they also emphasized the desire to perform better in the majors.

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Winter Meetings Day 2: Nats have shot at No. 1 pick in Draft (lottery update)


These Winter Meetings got off to a fast start yesterday with Trea Turner agreeing to an 11-year, $300 million deal with the Phillies and Justin Verlander agreeing to a two-year, $86 million deal with the Mets.

The Nationals will definitely feel the ramifications of two division rivals signing two of the biggest free agents on the market. And although general manager Mike Rizzo isn’t expected to dish out large contracts to other top free agents like Aaron Judge, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Rodón and Dansby Swanson, that doesn’t mean this week will be uneventful for the Nats.

Today is the first of two major events for the Nationals this week in San Diego, with the first-ever MLB Draft lottery taking place at 8:30 p.m. ET.

After a 55-107 record this year, the Nats are one of three teams with the highest odds to land the No. 1 overall pick. Along with the Athletics (60-102) and Pirates (62-100), the Nationals have a 16.5 percent chance at the top selection in next year’s draft.

The first six spots in the draft will be determined by the lottery. All 18 non-playoff teams are eligible for the lottery, with declining percentages in reverse order of their records, down to a 0.23 percent chance at scoring the top pick. After that, picks 7-18 will be determined in reverse order of standings. So the lowest the Nats can pick is No. 7 overall, which, at 19 percent, they have a better chance of getting than the No. 1 pick.

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Winter Meetings Day 1: Turner to Phils, Verlander to Mets


For the first time since 2019 in San Diego, the baseball Winter Meetings are full-go in person. And the biggest event of the offseason just so happens to be back in San Diego at the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

It’s barely the afternoon on the West Coast and there has already been major news breaking on the free agent market. Two of the top available free agents this winter have reportedly agreed to terms on new deals. And both are with National League East teams outside of D.C.

The biggest contract handed out so far this offseason is sure to be heartbreaking for Nats fans to see. Trea Turner has reportedly agreed to an 11-year, $300 million deal with the Phillies. The deal also reportedly includes a full no-trade clause, which will keep the shortstop in Philadelphia through the 2033 season.

ESPN was the first to report the Turner deal.

Turner, who played for the Nationals from 2015 until he was traded with Max Scherzer to the Dodgers at the 2021 deadline, reunites with Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber and hitting coach Kevin Long as former Nats in Philly.

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After full big league season, Thomas comfortable in versatility

Lane Thomas swing white

The Winter Meetings are officially underway at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego. On the first day, both Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Martinez will speak to the media. Plenty of content is on the way.

They will be asked about the ownership situation, the current state of the roster, the rest of the offseason and players returning next year.

What about the players themselves? It would be nice to hear from some of them this offseason.

Lane Thomas, a key returning player who will be included in the Opening Day starting lineup in the outfield, was gracious enough to join the first edition of the “Nationals Hot Stove Show” on Friday to update his offseason and look ahead to the 2023 campaign.

“I kind of get back home and hang out with family and enjoy some Tennessee football for a few weeks,” Thomas said on MASN about his offseason. “And then it's kind of back to it. Just start moving around again. And we've got a good group down at the university that, you know, some young guys that just got drafted and even some guys like Mike Minor and some other guys who've been around for a while. So it's a good group. And it's fun to be back with these guys getting ready and getting prepared for another year.”

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