It’s a bit unusual for a seven-year veteran to depart a playoff team and sign a multi-year deal with a rebuilding organization.
But that’s exactly what Trevor Williams did when he agreed to a two-year, $13 million deal with the Nationals over the weekend after spending the last two seasons with the Mets.
Although he was left off the Mets roster for the Wild Card Series against the Padres, the 30-year-old got his first taste of a pennant race this year and was expected to be included on the Division Series roster had New York advanced.
Now he’s coming to D.C., where the Nats are coming off their third straight last-place finish in the National League East. But the right-hander understands the situation and is comfortable committing to the Nats for two years.
With such a young team in a rebuilding phase, Williams doesn’t know too many current Nationals. He had only just met manager Davey Martinez over the phone earlier this week. But he is familiar with Josh Bell, who was Williams’ teammate for five years in Pittsburgh and spent the last 1 ½ seasons in Washington, and Craig Stammen, the former Nationals draft pick who spent the first seven years of his big league career in D.C. and knows Williams from playing for his hometown Padres over the last six years.
“Dave called me this morning. I had a nice conversation with him this morning about just welcoming me to D.C,” Williams said during an introductory Zoom conference with Nationals reporters on Monday. “I had a lot of talks with Josh Bell. I know he's not a current National, but I had a lot of talks with him. He's a guy that I really trust and I value his opinion. And he couldn't have said better things about D.C. I talked with Craig Stammen, too, who spent a lot of time in D.C. He couldn't have said better things about the city, about the organization.
“As far as players go, no, it's all new, and we're navigating that and trying to put faces to names. It's funny when you pitch in the same division, you feel like you know them because you've been pitching against them for the last two years. But to be on the other side, to be teammates with them now is something that I'm looking forward to.”
Over parts of seven major league seasons between the Pirates, Cubs and Mets, Williams is 38-44 with a 4.27 ERA, 1.343 WHIP, 1.2 home runs per nine innings and 2.55 strikeout-to-walk rate in 159 appearances (118 starts). He said he has been told he will be a part of the Nationals rotation this season, joining MacKenzie Gore, Cade Cavalli, Josiah Gray and Patrick Corbin.
Whether in the rotation or bullpen, he’ll be one of the more experienced pitchers on this staff, shifting from learning from the likes of Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom and Chris Bassitt in New York to mentoring the inexperienced pitchers in Washington.
But Williams has heard good things from his reliable sources that excite him about the young Nationals players.
“I was getting excited talking to Josh Bell about some of the kids with the Nationals,” he said. “And saying they got a good head on their shoulders, they're hungry to bring a championship back to D.C. So I'm looking forward to kind of watching back and seeing how they work. Everyone is different. And I've been very fortunate enough to play with a lot of great baseball players in this game. Seeing the leadership last year of, I mean you guys saw with Max, seeing how he worked, seeing how deGrom works, seeing how (Chris) Bassitt worked, and then seeing how when I came up in the big leagues with Joe Musgrove and Jameson Taillon and seeing how those guys lead.
“So just to see them, and to have guys like Craig Stammen, too, be a good leader, and what I heard of the guys from the Padres that they got in MacKenzie Gore and Abrams, seeing how hungry they are and the head on their shoulders. So I'm looking forward to seeing these guys flourish. And if I could help in any way possible, I'm looking forward to that. It is funny when I was looking at the roster at where I think I've turned the page and I've become the old guy. Even though I feel like I'm not too old, but I'm looking forward to taking on that role and learning something from these kids, too.”
Williams knows his role for the upcoming season. He was also fully aware of his own value during this offseason, saying he wasn’t a “trophy fish” in this free agent market. So the multiple years in a town he always enjoyed visiting appealed to him and his family when deciding where to settle down.
“D.C. was always one of my favorite road trips. Loved spending off-days in D.C.,” Williams said. “My oldest son is really looking forward to it because he wants to go to all the museums, he wants to go to all the parks, he wants to see the White House. As a family, we're thrilled to the point where we're hoping to make the Virginia area our home. And we're looking at places now and reaching out to a lot of people and seeing where it's the best. … But we're just looking forward to spending time together just in a nice, like, if we want to go to the National Mall, we can just go out there and just hang out. If we want to go downtown Alexandria, we can go there and hang out as a family. So we're looking forward to it. It was always a fun road trip. And I know my family is really looking forward to it, too.”
Nice to know D.C. as a city and the Nationals as an organization keep the team a desirable landing spot for free agents regardless of the win-loss column. But as it is one of top markets in the country, Williams, ever self-aware, knows that some areas around the city are more affordable than others, even with his new contract.
“Scherzer had a nice spot, but I think he's a little out of my price point,” he said with a laugh.