The Nationals made their first major league acquisitions of the offseason today, signing free agent Jeimer Candelario to a one-year deal to add an experienced third baseman coming off a rough season to a lineup that needs plenty of added production, then signing power-hitting outfielder Stone Garrett to a major league deal.
Candelario contract guarantees the 29-year-old a $5 million salary, with another $1 million available in incentives, according to the New York Post's Jon Heyman. Garrett, who appeared in 27 games for the Diamondbacks after making his major league debut this summer, gets a league minimum deal but is under the club's control for six years.
A switch-hitter originally signed by the Cubs in 2010 as an amateur free agent, Candelario went to the Tigers in a July 2017 trade deadline deal that sent veterans Alex Avila and Justin Wilson to Chicago. Over the ensuing six seasons, he hit .243 with 124 doubles, 65 homers, 245 RBIs and a .728 OPS.
Candelario peaked during the 2020-21 seasons, posting a combined slash line of .278/.356/.458 for a well-above-average OPS-plus of 125. He tied for the major league lead with 42 doubles to go along with 16 homers in 2021 and finished that season with 3.8 bWAR.
Candelario’s production dropped significantly this season, though. In 124 games, he batted just .217/.272/.361 with 19 doubles, 13 homers and 50 RBIs, his bWAR plummeting to 0.6. Entering his final year of arbitration and due to earn a raise from his $5.8 million salary, the Tigers chose not to tender him a contract at the Nov. 18 deadline, making him a free agent.
It remains to be seen how the Nationals fit Candelario into their 2023 plans, but at minimum he should come to spring training competing with Carter Kieboom (who missed the entire season following Tommy John surgery) and Ildemaro Vargas (who impressed after joining the club during the season) for the starting third base job.
The Nats also need a designated hitter after non-tendering Luke Voit, and could use another option at first base beyond Joey Meneses. Candelario could fill those roles, as well.
Garrett, too, should get a chance to push for playing time this spring, either as a corner outfielder or DH. The 27-year-old slugger put up big numbers for the Diamondbacks' Double-A and Triple-A clubs the last two seasons, with 25 homers in 2021 and 28 homers to go along with a .900 OPS this season at Reno.
Garrett made his major league debut Aug. 17, and in 27 games he batted .276/.309/.539 with eight doubles, four homers and 10 RBIs. He did strike out 27 times in 84 plate appearances, drawing only three walks.
Originally an eighth-round pick of the Marlins in 2014, the right-handed-hitting Garrett was designated for assignment by Arizona two weeks ago. He has played all three outfield positions, but the majority of his time has been spent at the corner spots.
Today's moves leave the Nationals with a full 40-man roster. They are likely to consider clearing a spot or two heading into next week's Winter Meetings, during which they are expected to use the No. 1 pick of the Rule 5 draft to acquire a player.