Barrera, Pérez casualties of Nats' 40-man roster moves

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All major league clubs were required to reinstate all players who ended the season on the injured list to their 40-man rosters Thursday, a deadline that prompted the Nationals to cut ties with two healthy players.

The Nats announced that catcher Tres Barrera and reliever Francisco Pérez both cleared waivers and were outrighted to Triple-A Rochester. Barrera and Pérez must now decide whether to accept the assignment and remain with the organization or become free agents.

Those moves were necessary when the Nationals were required to activate six players who had been on the 60-day IL (Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Rainey, Carter Kieboom, Yadiel Hernandez, Jackson Tetreault and Evan Lee), bringing their 40-man roster total to 41.

The club could’ve removed only one player to get back down to the maximum of 40, but instead opted to remove both Barrera and Pérez, leaving one open slot for now as the offseason commences, with more decisions likely in the next week.

Tuesday is MLB’s deadline to add minor leaguers to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from being lost in the Rule 5 draft. Among this winter’s Rule 5-eligible prospects are outfielder Jeremy De La Rosa, third baseman Jake Alu, shortstop Jackson Cluff, catcher Drew Millas and right-handers Jake Irvin and Jackson Rutledge.

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Thursday morning Nats Q&A

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Can you believe a month has passed since the end of the Nationals' season? (Though, to be fair, it doesn't feel nearly as long as the last month of the Nats' season felt, am I right?)

Having stayed quiet throughout October as the baseball world was focused on the postseason, the Nationals now are getting to work on an offseason that could produce some dramatic changes to the organization on the ownership front while simultaneously producing very little change to a roster that still has plenty of needs. The moves so far (re-signing Sean Doolittle to a minor-league deal, declining Nelson Cruz's $16 million option) haven't come as much surprise. Perhaps there will be something unexpected as things progress.

Despite the lack of hard news, you surely have plenty of questions you'd like to ask. And I've got some time this morning to attempt to answer them to the best of my ability. As always, submit your questions in the comments section below, then check back for my replies throughout the morning ...

Where the Nationals' payroll stands early in offseason

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For nearly a decade, the Nationals had one of the most successful and competitive rosters in baseball. They also had one of the most expensive rosters in the sport.

Each year from 2013-2021, the Nats finished with a payroll that ranked in the top 10 in the majors. Twice, they exceeded Major League Baseball’s luxury tax threshold, all in an attempt to finally win big in October.

That’s not the case anymore, and it probably won’t be the case again for a while.

After tearing down much of their roster during the 2021 season, the Nationals entered this season with a $135.4 million payroll that ranked 17th in the majors. Final figures haven’t been tabulated yet, but that ranking certainly went down by season’s end after Juan Soto and Josh Bell were traded to the Padres.

All of which leaves the franchise with as little commitment to player salaries heading into an offseason as has been the case in a long time.

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What can we expect from the Nats' offseason?

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They held another parade in Houston on Monday, while some 1,400 miles away in Las Vegas the annual General Managers Meetings commenced. Both events signified the same truth: The offseason has begun.

For most organizations, the season ended a month ago. The Nationals certainly fall into that category, having come nowhere close to competing for one of the 12 spots that was available in a newly expanded postseason field. They spent October watching others compete, while simultaneously self-evaluating the worst season in club history and prepping for what’s to come this winter.

What is to come? We don’t really know at this point, because of all the questions that need to be answered, the biggest of all remains very much unanswered: When will the Nationals be sold?

Despite initial suggestions (or hopes) the process would be completed this fall, it doesn’t appear from the outside as if enough progress has made to meet that timeline. It’s certainly possible there’s more going on behind the scenes than we realize. But most members of the organization are prepared for this to be dragged out a while longer, maybe even into the start of the 2023 season.

So where does that leave the Nats when it comes to formulating an offseason plan of attack? General manager Mike Rizzo said at season’s end he would be getting “parameters” from ownership that would go a long way toward determining his approach. For now, those parameters may not offer him much ability to spend much on free agents, unless the sale of the club really is possible before New Year’s.

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Nats must learn from Astros how to replace lost stars

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As they watched the final inning of the World Series late Saturday night, Mike Rizzo and Davey Martinez and anyone else with a connection to the Nationals surely were focused on Dusty Baker, thrilled to see their friend and former colleague finally win a championship as a manager, some 41 years after he won his lone title as a player.

Like so many others across the baseball world, they were rooting for Baker to get over the final hump that should lock up his permanent residence in Cooperstown. And like so many others across the baseball world, they probably weren’t excited to watch the Astros win their second World Series title, five years after their first one became tainted by a sign-stealing scandal that made them into the sport’s biggest villains.

But once the emotions of Saturday’s events in Houston wore off, it would have been appropriate for Rizzo, Martinez and everyone else who cares about the Nats to have another thought: How have the Astros been able to sustain their success and win a second championship while our own local franchise now finds itself a 107-loss disaster only three years after hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy on that very same field?

The easy answer is to lament the Nationals’ inability to retain the core of star players that led them to that glorious moment in October 2019. Juan Soto, Max Scherzer, Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner and Ryan Zimmerman are all gone now, the first four not because they retired like Zimmerman but because they either were traded away or departed as free agents.

If only they had been willing to spend what it took to keep some of those cornerstones – not to mention Bryce Harper, who was two wins away from winning his first World Series ring with the Phillies – the Nats wouldn’t be in this awful predicament right now.

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Nats bringing back Doolittle on minor league deal

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The Nationals are bringing back Sean Doolittle in 2023, re-signing the popular, rehabbing reliever only hours after he officially became a free agent.

Doolittle, who appeared in only five games last season before suffering a major elbow injury, agreed to terms on a minor league contract that includes an invitation to big league camp next spring. He’ll attempt to prove he’s healthy again and make the opening day bullpen.

The 36-year-old left-hander rejoined the Nationals on a $1.5 million major league contract this spring after spending 2021 with the Reds and Mariners. He immediately looked like the best version of himself from his first stint with the organization (2017-20), tossing 5 1/3 scoreless innings during the season’s first two weeks, not even allowing a batter to reach base until his sixth appearance.

But Doolittle experienced left elbow pain after that and landed on the 10-day injured list with a sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament. He was transferred to the 60-day IL a few weeks later but was hopeful he’d be able to return to pitch sometime during the season.

That didn’t happen. When the elbow pain returned as he attempted to start throwing off a mound again, Doolittle had to be shut down and make a decision. Ultimately, he opted to undergo an internal brace procedure that is less invasive than Tommy John surgery and typically allows a pitcher to return in about half the time it takes to rehab from a full ligament replacement.

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Does Abbott merit more opportunities next year?

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PLAYER REVIEW: CORY ABBOTT

Age on opening day 2023: 27

How acquired: Claimed off waivers from Giants, May 2022

MLB service time: 83 days

2022 salary: $700,000

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Machado has quietly established place in Nats bullpen

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PLAYER REVIEW: ANDRES MACHADO

Age on opening day 2023: 29

How acquired: Signed as minor league free agent, February 2021

MLB service time: 1 year, 86 days

2022 salary: $708,200

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After erratic season, Cishek faces decision about future

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PLAYER REVIEW: STEVE CISHEK

Age on opening day 2023: 36

How acquired: Signed as free agent, March 2022

MLB service time: 11 years, 143 days

2022 salary: $1.75 million

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Healthy and successful at last, Harvey poised to stick with Nats

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PLAYER REVIEW: HUNTER HARVEY

Age on opening day 2023: 28

How acquired: Claimed off waivers from Giants, March 2022

MLB service time: 3 years, 47 days

2022 salary: $700,000

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Unassuming Ramirez was invaluable to Nats this year

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PLAYER REVIEW: ERASMO RAMIREZ

Age on opening day 2023: 32

How acquired: Signed as minor league free agent, March 2022

MLB service time: 8 years, 1 day

2022 salary: $700,000

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Can Edwards duplicate impressive bullpen work in 2023?

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PLAYER REVIEW: CARL EDWARDS JR.

Age on opening day 2023: 31

How acquired: Signed as minor league free agent, February 2022

MLB service time: 5 years, 169 days

2022 salary: $700,000

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Finnegan has established himself, but there's still room to grow

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PLAYER REVIEW: KYLE FINNEGAN

Age on opening day 2023: 31

How acquired: Signed as free agent, December 2019

MLB service time: 3 years

2022 salary: $725,900

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Is there a chance Nats would re-sign 39-year-old Sánchez?

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PLAYER REVIEW: ANÍBAL SÁNCHEZ

Age on opening day 2023: 39

How acquired: Signed as minor league free agent, March 2022

MLB service time: 15 years, 83 days

2022 salary: $2 million

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Espino still has value to Nats, if used properly

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PLAYER REVIEW: PAOLO ESPINO

Age on opening day 2023: 36

How acquired: Signed as minor league free agent, January 2019

MLB service time: 2 years, 75 days

2022 salary: $716,200

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Gore primed to lead Nats rotation, if he's healthy again

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PLAYER REVIEW: MACKENZIE GORE

Age on opening day 2023: 24

How acquired: Traded from Padres with CJ Abrams, Luke Voit, Robert Hassell III, James Wood and Jarlin Susana for Juan Soto and Josh Bell, August 2022

MLB service time: 1 year

2022 salary: $700,000

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Voit is finalist for NL Silver Slugger Award

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Despite a performance he deemed substandard by his career norms, Luke Voit nonetheless received at least some support for a Silver Slugger Award this season.

The 31-year-old, acquired by the Nationals in this summer's Juan Soto-Josh Bell blockbuster trade, was revealed today as one of six finalists for the Silver Slugger among National League designated hitters. Winners at every position will be announced Nov. 11.

Owner of an .818 OPS over the entirety of his six-year career with the Cardinals, Yankees, Padres and Nationals, Voit finished the 2022 season with career lows in batting average (.226), on-base percentage (.308), slugging percentage (.402) and OPS (.710). His 22 homers matched a career high, though he set that mark during the 60-game, pandemic-shortened 2020 season, when he actually led the American League.

Silver Slugger Awards are selected by managers and coaches, who submitted their votes in late September. Voit joins Bell (listed only as a Padre), Albert Pujols, Justin Turner, Charlie Blackmon and Bryce Harper as finalists. There is no second round of voting still to come. The "finalists" were merely those players who received votes.

No other Nationals players received Silver Slugger votes this season, though Soto was named a finalist among NL outfielders. Like Bell, he was listed only as a member of the Padres, even though he spent more of the season playing for Washington.

September injury means Cavalli is an unknown entering 2023

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PLAYER REVIEW: CADE CAVALLI

Age on opening day 2023: 24

How acquired: First-round pick, 2020 draft

MLB service time: 41 days

2022 salary: $700,000

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Is Fedde on thin ice after another disappointing season?

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PLAYER REVIEW: ERICK FEDDE

Age on opening day 2023: 30

How acquired: First-round pick, 2014 draft

MLB service time: 4 years, 99 days

2022 salary: $2.15 million

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How does Corbin become an effective pitcher again?

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PLAYER REVIEW: PATRICK CORBIN

Age on opening day 2023: 33

How acquired: Signed as free agent, December 2018

MLB service time: 10 years, 105 days

2022 salary: $23 million

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