Low-key additions don't grab attention but are needed right now

The Nationals haven't made many roster moves so far this offseason, and those they have made don't exactly have a lot of wow factor.

César Hernández? Lucius Fox? Francisco Pérez? Andrew Young? These aren't names that are going to inspire a fan base to believe the club is bound for big things in 2022.

These are, however, exactly the kind of moves the Nationals should be making at this stage of their rebuild. And there will probably be more to come once the league-enforced lockout of players ends with a new collective bargaining agreement.

Thumbnail image for Rizzo-Mask-Watches-Game-Sidebar.jpgThe Nats of 2012-21 didn't make a lot of these kinds of moves. They made big splashes in free agency. They traded away prospects to acquire veterans. Everything they did was with a singular goal in mind: Help the team win more games now, not later.

Well, in case you haven't heard, that's no longer the mindset around here. The Nationals are trying to win later, not right now. And the way to do that is to acquire as many young players as you can get your hands on, even if they come without the pedigree or the price tag of established big leaguers.

Hernández, who signed last week for $4 million, isn't a difference maker. But he's a viable starting second baseman or utility man who can help out a little bit now, buy some time for younger prospects and perhaps even be traded for more young talent come July.

Fox and Pérez, both claimed off waivers, aren't safe bets to make the opening day roster. But each could find his way onto the big league roster sometime in 2022, and perhaps one or both will become a contributor with a future.

Young, as a minor league Rule 5 draft pick, faces the longest odds of all to make it. But in this case, the 27-year-old second baseman already has spent part of the last two years in the majors with the Diamondbacks, and has shown an ability to hit for power at Triple-A. (He hasn't yet shown it much in the big leagues.) He's not on the 40-man roster at this point, so nobody's penciling him in for anything. But he's certainly someone the Nationals could take a look at if the need arises, and maybe he'd seize that opportunity.

Right now, the best thing the Nationals can do is add more quantity of young players. Sure, you'd love to have high-quality players, but there's only so much of that to go around. But by adding as much quantity as possible, you can hope for the emergence of some quality at some point from the group.

That's why the Nats probably will take a player in the major league Rule 5 draft, whenever that annual event finally takes place. They haven't drafted anybody via Rule 5 since 2010 - anybody remember Elvin Ramírez and Brian Broderick? - but they now find themselves back in the position they were in more than a decade ago, needing to find as much young talent as possible and hoping someone emerges from the pack to make a difference long-term.

It may not create big headlines. It may not wow fans desperate to see their favorite team improve after a dismal, 97-loss season. But it's the way things work in the early stages of a rebuild.

And if the Nats do this well enough, they might just find themselves moving into the latter stages of a rebuild sooner rather than later.

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