Decision coming on Thompson; Rutledge to start Wednesday

thompson v CIN

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The Nationals hope to have more clarity in the next 24 hours on Mason Thompson, who is set to be re-examined by team doctors after being shut down the last two weeks with a sore elbow.

Thompson reported soreness after one of his final offseason bullpen sessions at home in Texas, and the Nats instructed him not to throw when he arrived at spring training, giving the elbow a chance to calm down before a decision on how to proceed would be made.

That decision is now coming, with Thompson scheduled to be examined later today as the right-hander and the club hold their collective breaths.

“Keeping my fingers crossed,” manager Davey Martinez said. “To be honest with you, I’m a little concerned.”

Thompson had Tommy John surgery nine years ago as a junior in high school. He’s avoided major injuries since then, though he did miss three months in 2022 with a right biceps strain.

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Updating the organization depth chart as spring training approaches

Mike Rizzo

We are now inside of two weeks until pitchers and catchers report, so the offseason is nearly finished.

And what an offseason it’s been for the Nationals, who have … acquired a total of four major league players, not even totaling $10 million spent on those players.

OK, so it’s been an awfully quiet winter on South Capitol Street. There’s still time for Mike Rizzo and Co. to make more moves, though. And given the swath of still-unsigned free agents out there, we may see teams continue to add significant players after spring training has already commenced.

But since we’re getting close to the finish line now, it’s probably a good time to take an updated look at the state of the Nationals’ organization depth chart. We did this way back on Nov. 8, at the outset of the offseason. How does it look today compared to then?

(Note: Players listed below are on the 40-man roster, except for those with an asterisk next to their names.)

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Two decades later, best friends Thomas and Senzel reunited with Nats

Lane Thomas red catching

Sleep is precious for Lane Thomas these days, with a newborn son at home. So when he woke up one morning last week, checked his phone and saw he had missed a 12:30 a.m. call from Nick Senzel, he was incredulous at first.

“I called him back and was like: ‘Dude, I go to sleep at 9 with a child. What were you calling me at 12:30 for?’” Thomas recalled. “And he said: ‘I’m a Nat!’”

Thus did Thomas and Senzel become teammates, and not for the first time.

Flash back two decades to a youth field in Knoxville, Tenn., and there you find a travel ball team of 7- and 8-year-olds starring a couple of kids named Nick Senzel and Lane Thomas. Being 7-year-olds who didn’t know any better, they absolutely would’ve believed they’d someday not only both be major leaguers, but teammates for the Nationals (a team that didn’t even exist at the time, by the way).

As they got older, that dream scenario faded. Who really thinks like that once they have just a little bit of life perspective?

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Senzel "super excited" about playing with Abrams

CJ Abrams throwing white

Much has already been made of Nick Senzel’s friendship with Lane Thomas (with more to come) and how that factored into his decision to sign a one-year, $2 million deal with the Nationals that includes an extra $1 million in incentives.

But there were other enticing aspects of joining the Nats that the 28-year-old considered when making his decision.

Of course, the opportunity to play third base, his natural position, every day after moving all over the field during his five-year career with the Reds was one.

Another factor was who he would be playing alongside on the left side of the infield.

CJ Abrams emerged as the Nats’ shortstop of the future this season after putting together a promising campaign. The 23-year-old slashed .245/.300/.412 with a .712 OPS, 28 doubles, six triples, 18 home runs, 64 RBIs and a new Nats single-season club record 47 stolen bases. Defensively, he posted a 4 Defensive Runs Saved at shortstop.

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Senzel assured everyday third base spot

Nick Senzel Reds throwing red

The Nationals went to last week’s Winter Meetings in Nashville with a list of needs that included an everyday third baseman.

They left Thursday morning after signing former Reds utilityman Nick Senzel for $2 million plus an extra $1 million in incentives.

Senzel, 28, was non-tendered by the Reds last month after slashing .236/.297/.399 with a .696 OPS, 10 doubles, a career-high 13 home runs and 42 RBIs, and six stolen bases while playing third base, second base and all three outfield spots. The 2016 No. 2 overall pick from the University of Tennessee finished his five-year career in Cincinnati with a .239 average, .671 OPS, 33 homers and 125 RBIs.

The Nationals believe Senzel’s subpar results were partially a product of moving around the field too much and that they could improve if he is given the chance to play one position consistently alongside his childhood best friend, Lane Thomas.

“I'd like to say both,” Senzel said in a Zoom meeting with reporters when asked how much his decision to sign with the Nats was based on what they could offer and the chance to play with Thomas. “Obviously, me and Lane, we grew up playing together. And this opportunity that was brought to me, an opportunity to be able to play every day and get a new start in a historic franchise, was just kind of just kind of a no-brainer for me. And just having Lane, one of my best buddies I grew up with, playing right field, it's really insane, to be honest.”

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Nats announce signings of Senzel, Floro; Downs is DFA

Senzel against Nats

The Nationals officially announced last week’s signing of third baseman Nick Senzel this afternoon, then added another signing for good measure: veteran reliever Dylan Floro.

Both Senzel and Floro have officially signed one-year deals, Senzel’s worth $2 million plus incentives and Floro’s worth $2.25 million plus incentives, sources familiar with the terms confirmed. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal was first to report Floro’s salary.

Needing to clear one spot on their 40-man roster in order to announce these moves, the Nats designated infielder Jeter Downs for assignment.

Senzel, who came to terms on his contract last week as the Winter Meetings wrapped up, is expected to start at third base for the Nationals, hoping to finally realize the potential that made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 Draft by the Reds. Even if he does, he’s still viewed as a stop-gap at third until top prospect Brady House (who finished this season at Double-A Harrisburg) is ready to debut.

The Floro signing, which just came together in recent days, gives the Nats something they suggested last week they were seeking: Bullpen depth to help take some workload off top late-inning arms Kyle Finnegan and Hunter Harvey.

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Senzel can be more successful by sticking to one spot

Nick Senzel Reds throwing red

The Nationals almost left the Winter Meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville without a major league signing.

On Wednesday, the last official day of the meetings, they added infielder Nasim Nuñez through the Rule 5 Draft and signed first baseman/outfielder Juan Yepez to a minor league deal.

But in the wee hours of Thursday morning, before the Nationals braintrust left for the Nashville airport, they finally made one major addition by signing former Reds utilityman Nick Senzel to a $2 million contract that includes an extra $1 million in incentives.

Parallels have already been drawn from this signing to the addition of Dominic Smith last offseason.

They both were former first-round picks: Smith out of high school by the Mets in 2013 and Senzel out of the University of Tennessee by the Reds in 2016. Both were non-tendered by their respective clubs after not realizing their full potential and then signed with the Nats for $2 million with another year of club control.

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Senzel signing seems to fit within Nats' stated plan for 2024

Brady House futures jersey

The Nationals’ first major league free agent signing feels a lot like one of their major league free agent signings from a year ago.

Nick Senzel might as well be Dominic Smith. Not necessarily in his playing profile, but certainly in his career situation.

Smith was a 27-year-old first baseman who was once a Mets first-round pick but was non-tendered after failing to live up to his full potential, ultimately signing with the Nats for $2 million plus another year of club control.

Senzel is a 28-year-old third baseman who was once a Reds first-round pick but was non-tendered after failing to live up to his full potential, ultimately signing with the Nats for $2 million plus another year of club control.

We all know how the Smith acquisition worked out. Though he played a smooth first base and was well-liked in the clubhouse, he didn’t hit nearly enough for his position and thus was cut loose after one season.

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Source: Nats sign Senzel after Candelario goes to Reds (updated)

Nick Senzel Reds jersey

The Winter Meetings officially ended Wednesday. The Nationals stuck around Nashville a bit longer and went home with their first major-league free agent signing of the offseason.

The Nats signed former Reds utilityman Nick Senzel for $2 million (plus $1 million in incentives) overnight, a source familiar with the deal confirmed. This came shortly after Cincinnati signed former Nats third baseman Jeimer Candelario for a reported three years and $45 million.

Senzel, 28, was non-tendered by the Reds last month after a second straight disappointing season, during which he batted .236/.297/.399 with 13 homers and 42 RBIs in 104 games. His defensive versatility, though, remains a strength.

Senzel has played center field, third base, second base, left field and right field during his five-year career. The Nationals could use help at several of those positions in the short-term, so it’s possible they’ll have him move around the field depending on their needs on any given day, though a club source said the initial intention is to play him primarily at third base as the organization waits for top prospect Brady House to reach the majors.

The second-overall pick in the 2016 Draft out of Tennessee, Senzel came to the Reds with high hopes of becoming a star. It didn’t happen. After a solid rookie season in 2019, he missed significant time in 2020 and 2021 with injuries, then struggled in both 2022 and 2023 after returning healthy.

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