Nats will continue to search waiver wire for help this season and beyond

PHILADELPHIA – With the worst record in the major leagues at 36-72, the Nationals are already looking ahead to these next two months of 2022 and the 2023 season.

It’s a difficult time of year for teams, like the Nationals, who chose to sell at the trade deadline. They traded away their best major league players for unproven prospects and journeyman veterans, as the Nats did with Juan Soto, Josh Bell and Ehire Adrianza.

But it’s also an interesting time of year for those teams to keep a close eye on the waiver wire. The teams that bought at the deadline, and to a lesser extent other teams that sold, sometimes have to make roster cuts at the big league level to make room for their newly acquired talent.

That’s where teams like the Nationals can bite.

A benefit of having the worst record in the majors is that the Nationals get first dibs on the waiver wire. Any player that becomes available has to go through Washington before any of the 29 other teams can make a claim. That gives the Nats an advantage on taking some chances on bounceback candidates who can help them over these last 54 games and possibly beyond.

“We're constantly looking, especially now, on the waiver wire,” manager Davey Martinez said during Friday’s pregame meeting with the media. “Because we're trying to get better. We're trying to kind of get guys in place to where we might be able to have them for next year as well. Going into spring training. So we're constantly looking at players that might pop up on the waiver wire right now. Because those guys could very well help us this year or even help us moving forward next year.”

The Nationals already did a good job of utilizing the waiver wire and minor league free agent market last offseason and earlier this season to bring in significant contributors and important role-players to this roster.

On the current 26-man active roster, more than one-third of the players were either waiver claims or signed to minor league contracts:

* Victor Arano - minor league contract with invite to spring training
* Carl Edwards Jr. - minor league contract with invite to spring training
* Hunter Harvey - waiver claim from Orioles in spring training
* Andres Machado - minor league free agent signing
* Erasmo Ramirez - minor league contract with invite to spring training
* Jordan Weems - minor league contract with invite to spring training
* Maikel Franco - minor league contract with invite to spring training
* Joey Meneses - minor league free agent signing
* Josh Palacios - waiver claim from Blue Jays
* Ildemaro Vargas - minor league free agent signing

There are others throughout the organization that have appeared in games for the Nats this season but aren’t currently on the active roster. For a franchise that’s in a rebuilding phase, that's an important aspect of roster construction.

Credit goes to director of player development De Jon Watson and assistant general manager, player personnel Mark Scialabba.

“One hundred percent,” Martinez said when asked if he was impressed with the job they did on the minor league free agent market. “I mean, we talked a lot, going into last winter, about depth. About bringing guys here that we feel like can help us in the big league club. And Mark and De Jon, they did really well in getting some of these guys here. And guys that we've seen before. Guys that were hurt in the past that we thought could come and help us. 

“I've known (Edwards) for a long time. And when we talked about him, I said, 'Look, the guy's gonna go out there and compete if he's healthy.' The biggest thing is getting him here and he's healthy. Obviously, you see what he can do when he's healthy.”

The tricky part then is trying to balance bringing in new guys while still giving the guys who are already here a chance to continue to prove themselves.

For guys who aren’t under team control past this year or who aren’t young players the team is clearly trying to build around, these two months are tryouts for another opportunity next year and for whatever their futures may hold.

“It's something that we definitely look at,” Martinez said. “Something that, if we do go down the waiver wire, we're looking at somebody and we feel like they really can help us here, then we'll have to do something else. But also, too, somebody that's willing to come here and go to Triple-A and kind of pitch and wait and see what happens, we look at those guys as well. Right now, as you can see, we're really looking for left-handed relief pitchers. We don't have any right now. And I know that we're constantly looking for some guys that might pop up that we can get.”

Rosters expand to 28 players in September, so that will provide two more spots for players to show their stuff at the major league level.

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