Nationals non-tender Voit, Fedde, Romero before deadline

The Nationals parted ways with Luke Voit, Erick Fedde and Tommy Romero this evening, electing not to tender contracts to one of the players they acquired in this summer’s blockbuster trade with the Padres and their 2014 first-round pick after underwhelming seasons.

The club did tender contracts before tonight’s 8 p.m. deadline to their seven other remaining arbitration-eligible players: Lane Thomas, Victor Robles, Kyle Finnegan, Carl Edwards Jr., Hunter Harvey, Tanner Rainey and Victor Arano.

The Nats could still choose to re-sign Voit or Fedde if either is willing to return at a salary figure lower than they would’ve received through the arbitration process, such reunions are rare for players who aren’t attempting to come back from injuries.

Voit faced an uncertain future following his arrival in Washington as the lone experienced major leaguer the Nationals received along with five highly rated prospects from San Diego for Juan Soto and Josh Bell. Though he couldn’t become a free agent until after the 2024 season, the 31-year-old wasn’t viewed as a piece to the organization’s long-term plans. And after he hit just .226/.308/.402 in 135 total games split between the two clubs, his stock fell.

With a projected salary of $8.2 million, per MLB Trade Rumors, Voit would’ve been among the Nationals’ highest-paid players next season. If he performed up to his earlier career standards, that would’ve been a bargain. But if he duplicated this year’s numbers, it would’ve felt excessive.

Ultimately, the Nats decided to part ways and try to fill his spot in the lineup with someone else, though it may cost more to acquire another experienced first baseman or designated hitter.

Fedde all along appeared to be most in danger of being let go, his escalating salary no longer in line with his actual performance. The 29-year-old right-hander went a disappointing 6-13 with a 5.81 ERA and 1.630 WHIP in 27 starts this season while earning $2.15 million. Entering his second year of arbitration eligibility, he was due a raise, with a projected salary of $3.6 million.

Selected 18th overall in the country in the 2014 draft out of UNLV only days after he underwent Tommy John surgery, Fedde never realized his full potential. He made his major league debut in 2017, spent the next two seasons shuttling back and forth between Washington’s rotation, bullpen and Triple-A, then finally got a chance to stick in the big league rotation the last three years.

Though he had brief stretches of success, most notably in April and May in both 2021 and 2022, Fedde never managed to sustain that success while also missing some time with minor injuries. In 102 total games (88 of them starts) over parts of six seasons, he went 21-33 with a 5.41 ERA and 1.523 WHIP.

Romero wasn’t yet eligible for arbitration, but the Nationals still non-tendered the right-hander after he was roughed up in his lone big-league start for them during the season’s final week.

The Nats did retain all five of their relievers who are arbitration-eligible, banking on several of them to continue their success from this past season. Finnegan (projected $2 million salary), Edwards ($1.6 million) and Harvey ($1 million) figure to be manager Davey Martinez’s top choices in late innings, and Arano (projected $1 million) could be a valuable middle-inning arm if he returns strong from a shoulder strain that cut his 2022 season short. The Nats also hope Rainey ($1.5 million) rejoins the mix sometime in the summer once he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

Thomas (projected $2.1 million salary) and Robles ($2.5 million) are expected to open next season as starting outfielders, though each still has much to prove. The Nationals will be seeking another corner outfielder to join them in the lineup, unless they move Joey Meneses out there and add a first baseman instead. That’s in addition to the hole they just created by non-tendering Voit.

Salaries for all of the returning players will be determined later in the offseason. The two sides are free to negotiate terms on their own. If they can’t, they must submit competing arbitration offers to Major League Baseball in January and then have their cases decided by a three-judge panel in February.

* The Nationals have signed utilityman Erick Mejia and infielder Leonel Valera to minor-league deals with invitations to big league camp next spring.

Mejia, 28, has appeared in 17 big-league games with the Royals, going 6-for-36 with two doubles and four RBIs. He spent this season playing for the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate, batting .261/.330/.433 with 15 homers, 58 RBIs and 19 stolen bases while appearing at six different positions.

Valera, 23, has never played above Double-A. Over six seasons in the Dodgers’ farm system, he has hit .254/.335/.393 with 41 homers, 234 RBIs and 118 stolen bases.

Could Nationals add two big bats to lineup now?
Time has come for decisions on Voit, Fedde, others
 

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