The Nationals haven't added anyone new yet this offseason, but they have dropped quite a few members of the 2020 club over the last month-plus. In fact, their 40-man roster includes only 30 players at this moment, underscoring just how much work they still have ahead of them this winter.
We've talked plenty already about the various holes on the roster and tried to identify some free agents who might interest the Nats. But as we begin another week in what continues to look like a very slow offseason, maybe it's a good idea to take a step back and see what the entire organizational depth chart looks like right now.
As you'll see, there do remain some positions of strength, but there are plenty in need of help, whether on the top line or down a couple rungs of the ladder.
This depth chart includes all of the aforementioned 30 players already on the roster, plus some minor leaguers who you'd think should find their way into the mix in spring training or at some point in 2021. (Those players have an asterisk next to their names.) And since we're going position by position, you're going to notice some versatile players listed more than once.
Comment: With Kurt Suzuki now a free agent, there's definitely a need here for another major league catcher. Gomes had a decent bounceback performance in 2020, but it doesn't seem like the Nationals view him as a clear-cut No. 1 catcher. In all likelihood, they'll want to bring in another veteran who could share the job with him (or perhaps go for broke and sign J.T. Realmuto to be the new No. 1). It's also possible they could sign another veteran to a minor league deal to provide more depth. Barrera and Read (who was removed from the 40-man roster after the season) don't appear to be anything more than emergency options at this point. Reetz and Pineda are young minor leaguers who could get a look in spring training.
Comment: Uh, yeah. They really need a first baseman. Actually, two of them. There's no way they go into 2021 with this group as-is. The big questions, of course, are whether Ryan Zimmerman and/or Howie Kendrick want to return to play another season, and whether the Nationals want to re-sign one or both of them. Even if they're back, the club almost certainly will want to add a left-handed bat to complement them. They hoped Eric Thames would handle that role well this year. It didn't work out as hoped.
Comment: We never really got a full look at Castro this summer before he fractured his wrist a couple of weeks into the season. He'll be back healthy and figures to retain his starting job. That said, it's possible the organization could decide it wants GarcÃa to play second base after showing flashes of excellence as a rookie and move Castro to third base. (Though Davey Martinez has always insisted he believes second base is Castro's best position.) Harrison is the one free agent the Nationals have re-signed, and the super-utilityman will see action all around the field. Sanchez is off the 40-man roster but still in the organization. Freeman, a 2017 draft pick, is Rule 5 draft-eligible and thus could be added to the 40-man roster soon to protect him.
Comment: No concerns here. Turner will be coming off the best season of his career, one that earned him MVP votes for the first time. If something happened to him, the club probably would be comfortable giving GarcÃa a shot to play his natural position. And there's plenty of depth beyond that, including a couple young minor leaguers beginning to make a name for themselves in Cluff and Antuna.
Comment: This remains a huge question mark. Are the Nationals still committed to Kieboom? If not, where do they turn? The others on the list all could fill in at the hot corner if needed, but none figures to be the everyday guy (except perhaps for GarcÃa, though he has barely played the position in the minors). If they look outside the organization, Justin Turner is a free agent and would be awfully appealing (if he doesn't want to return to the Dodgers).
Comment: We're putting Soto at the top of the list here, but it's entirely possible he ends up starting in right field in 2021. We got a hint of that possibility in late September, and the slugger seems agreeable to it if the Nationals decide to try to acquire another big bat who plays left field. Stevenson is all but assured of making the opening day roster, at worst as the fourth outfielder, at best as a starter at one of the two corner positions. Harrison and HernÃ¡ndez provide some depth, as well.
Comment: Robles, currently playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic, needs to bounce back next year and prove he can be an elite defensive center fielder and consistent hitter. Stevenson can hold his own out there if needed, but the Nationals do need to replace Michael A. Taylor. If they acquire a veteran backup outfielder this winter, you'd expect he'll be someone capable of playing center field.
Comment: As stated earlier, it's possible Soto ends up as the starting right fielder. If not, the Nationals will probably have acquired a prominent player to take over Adam Eaton's old spot. Yes, there are scenarios in which Stevenson gets a starting job, but it's probably not Plan A.
Comment: The top three are as good as any top three in the majors (when healthy). And there is legitimate depth from the fifth spot down. But there's still a big need for a reliable No. 4 starter to replace AnÃbal SÃ¡nchez. As we've seen before, the Nationals rotation is in good shape when only one of Ross, Fedde and Voth are needed to pitch every fifth day. If two of them are consistently starting, there's a problem.
Comment: There's plenty of quality right-handers on this list. For the first time in a while, the Nationals have legitimate bullpen depth entering the offseason. What they don't have, however, are any left-handers of consequence. That's going to be a big priority this winter. It's possible one or more depth starters (Fedde, Voth, Romero, Braymer) could wind up in the bullpen, but there's still a need for at least one more proven arm to join this group.
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