Nats create two more openings on 40-man roster

This week’s signings of Jeimer Candelario and Stone Garrett left the Nationals with a full 40-man roster. Knowing more acquisitions are likely to come at next week’s Winter Meetings, they knew they’d need to clear some more roster spots.

The Nats took care of that Thursday, announcing outfielders Yasel Antuna and Josh Palacios each cleared waivers and was outrighted to the minors. That removed both players from the 40-man roster, leaving two open slots heading into the Winter Meetings.

Both Antuna and Palacios seemed to be on thin ice heading into the offseason, with both players in danger of losing their roster spots last month when the Nationals needed to add several players to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Though they both survived that round of cuts, they didn’t survive this one.

Antuna has been regarded as one of the organization’s better offensive prospects since he was signed out of the Dominican Republic in July 2016 for a hefty $3.9 million. But outside of a strong 2017 debut in rookie ball in which he batted .301/.382/.399, he hasn’t been able to hit consistently in the minors. Over the course of five professional seasons spanning 1,548 plate appearances, Antuna owns a .231/.329/.358 slash line with 65 doubles, 30 homers and 157 RBIs.

The Nationals hoped a position switch this year might help after Antuna was charged with 36 errors in only 96 games at shortstop in 2021. But even playing with less defensive pressure as an outfielder this season, he still struggled at the plate.

Now 23, Antuna has played only 26 games above Single-A. The Nats had added him to their 40-man roster one year ago, worried he might have been lost in the Rule 5 draft. Twelve months later, he’s off the 40-man again, assigned outright to Triple-A Rochester and needing to earn his way back.

Palacios joined the organization this season when he was claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays. The 27-year-old was called up to the big league Aug. 2 to assume one of the spots that suddenly opened up when Juan Soto and Josh Bell were traded to the Padres, but he didn’t make much of an impact over the next two months.

In 29 games and 49 plate appearances, Palacios hit .213/.245/.255 with 15 strikeouts and only one walk. He had put up solid numbers at Rochester prior to his promotion, batting .298/.382/.433 with seven homers and 44 RBIs.

Outrighted off the 40-man roster Thursday, Palacios was assigned to Double-A Harrisburg.

* The Nationals have signed infielder Franklin Barreto to a minor league deal, a source confirmed, though the signing does not include an invitation to big league camp next spring at this point.

Barreto, 26, has appeared in 101 career major league games with the Athletics and Angels, but none since the 2020 season. He spent this past year with the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate, batting just .162/.259/.274 in 73 games before getting released Aug. 8.

With CJ Abrams and Luis García set to start in the middle infield next season and Ildemaro Vargas the likely utility infielder, there probably isn’t much opportunity for Barreto to crack the big league roster. But the Nationals could use some experience at Triple-A and would always prefer to summon an infielder with major league experience if something goes wrong during the course of the season.

* Tune into MASN tonight at 9:30 p.m. for the debut episode of “The Hot Stove Show,” co-hosted by Brendan Mortensen and yours truly. The 30-minute show will air weekly throughout the offseason, with news, analysis and interviews with Nationals executives, coaches and players.

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