No shortage of free agent outfielders for Nats to consider

Rank the Nationals' most significant needs this winter and there's no debate what tops the list: a big bat.

Someone who can hit behind Trea Turner and Juan Soto. Someone who can lengthen the lineup. Someone who can fill the void created by Anthony Rendon's departure last winter. (And, yes, obviously this all could've been avoided if the Nats just re-signed Rendon, but there's no sense re-litigating that one now.)

This big bat could come in a variety of forms and could play one of several positions. Maybe it's a first baseman. Maybe it's a third baseman. Maybe it's a catcher.

But the most likely position for such a player is outfield, specifically one of the corner outfield positions. So we're going to begin our look at potential free-agent targets with a look at some outfield candidates, and an attempt to decipher how interested (or uninterested) he Nationals are in each ...

GEORGE SPRINGER
Opening day 2021 age: 31
2020 stats: 222 PA, .265 AVG, .359 OBP, .540 SLG, .899 OPS, 14 HR, 32 RBI, 6 DRS (in CF), -3 DRS (in RF), 1.9 bWAR
Projected contract: 6 years, $150 million
Nats' likely interest level: Moderate to high. There isn't that one superstar slugger or ace in this winter's free agent market. No Bryce Harper or Rendon or Stephen Strasburg or Max Scherzer. But Springer is a star player, and probably the best available free agent this offseason. And he sure would help the Nationals out a lot. He hits for power. He gets on base at a high rate. He's an excellent defender, including in center field if needed but more likely in right field in this case. The only downsides? He's going to cost a lot (though probably not as much as Rendon did). And he's already 31. Still, if you had to pick one available free agent who best fills the Nats' needs, Springer is the guy.

Ozuna-Swings-Braves-Sidebar.jpgMARCELL OZUNA
Opening day 2021 age: 30
2020 stats: 267 PA, .338 AVG, .431 OBP, .636 SLG, 1.067 OPS, 18 HR, 56 RBI, -2 DRS (in LF), 2.3 bWAR
Projected contract: 5 years, $100 million
Nats' likely interest: Moderate. No hitter on this winter's market did more to help himself in 2020 than Ozuna, who took a one-year deal from the Braves and re-established his worth with a monster season at the plate. It's probably too much to ask him to put up those kind of numbers again (especially over a 162-game season). But even if he drops off a bit, he's still a big-time, middle-of-the-order bat and would look great batting behind Turner and Soto. The dilemma with Ozuna? He's a real liability in the field. He probably should be restricted to DH duties. And we don't know yet if the National League will have a DH in 2021 or beyond. If the Nationals are willing to take a chance that the DH becomes permanent sometime in the next few years, Ozuna would make a lot of sense for them.

MICHAEL BRANTLEY
Opening day 2021 age: 33
2020 stats: 187 PA, .300 AVG, .364 OBP, .476 SLG, .840 OPS, 5 HR, 22 RBI, 5 DRS (in LF), 1.5 bWAR
Projected contract: 2 years, $30 million
Nats' likely interest: Moderate. He isn't the kind of big bopper Springer and Ozuna are, but Brantley is consistently a very good hitter. The guy batted third in a stacked Astros lineup the last two seasons, so he must be decent. His best selling point is that he's more affordable than those two other sluggers, and he's solid in the field. But is he a true difference-maker in a lineup or more of a complementary player?

JOC PEDERSON
Opening day 2021 age: 28
2020 stats: 138 PA, .190 AVG, .285 OBP, .397 SLG, .681 OPS, 7 HR, 16 RBI, -2 DRS (in LF), 1 DRS (in RF), -0.4 bWAR
Projected contract: 2 years, $20 million
Nats' likely interest: Low to moderate. If you knew you would get the Pederson that seems to show up every October instead of the one who usually shows up from April to September, you'd give him a lot more money. But for whatever reason, he's never fully lived up to his potential over a long season. Still, he's a potent left-handed bat (that needs to be platooned) and he has an awfully good postseason track record if you get there.

RYAN BRAUN
Opening day 2021 age: 37
2020 stats: 141 PA, .233 AVG, .281 OBP, .488 SLG, .769 OPS, 8 HR, 26 RBI, -1 DRS (in RF), -0.1 bWAR
Projected contract: 1 year, $8 million
Nats' likely interest: Low. How the mighty have fallen. The former NL MVP's best days appear well past him now. But maybe, just maybe, a change of scenery and a chance to make another run at a World Series appearance that has eluded him to date would bring out one more big year in him. He shouldn't be the Nationals' Plan A or Plan B. But if they get a more reliable bat at a different position, they could make try to take a low-risk/high-reward shot at Braun as well.

JACKIE BRADLEY JR.
Opening day 2021 age: 30
2020 stats: 217 PA, .283 AVG, .364 OBP, .450 SLG, .814 OPS, 7 HR, 22 RBI, 5 DRS (in CF), 1.8 bWAR
Projected contract: 3 years, $24 million
Nats' likely interest: Low to moderate. He's an elite center fielder coming off a solid offensive year who has played on a championship team before and brings a lot to the table. Trouble is, he's not really the right fit for the Nationals, who need more of a power bat and probably don't need a center fielder. Again, though, depending on where the other chips fall, it's not out of the question to consider Bradley as part of an alternate plan.

ADAM EATON
Opening day 2021 age: 32
2020 stats: 176 PA, .226 AVG, .285 OBP, .384 SLG, .669 OPS, 4 HR, 17 RBI, -6 DRS (in RF), -0.9 bWAR
Projected contract: 1 year, $5 million
Nats' likely interest: Low. We've kind of been going under the assumption that the Nationals are moving on from Eaton, but nobody has come out and actually said that to be the case. They simply declined his $10.5 million club option. That doesn't preclude them from re-signing him to a lesser deal. If you're a big Eaton fan, though, don't get your hopes up too much. The Nationals need a corner outfielder who can hit for power and play at least average defense. Eaton doesn't really do either for them at this point. Never say never, but the odds of a return are very low.

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