Tuesday wound up a busy day for the Nationals, who added six players to the 40-man roster, dropped four others and announced a couple more transactions to boot.
Here are some more thoughts on what transpired …
* The decision to outright Yadiel Hernandez to Triple-A Rochester might be a tip-off to more decisions that will be coming in the days and weeks to come.
The Nats clearly felt Hernandez wasn’t in their Opening Day 2023 plans, but that does still leave left field a major question mark. Are they going to enter spring training with only Alex Call and Josh Palacios in the mix out there? No. They’re going to have to go out and get somebody with a track record. Either that, or they could move Joey Meneses to left field and look for a first baseman, if they think there’s more of a market there.
Regardless of Meneses’ eventual position, the Nationals know they need to fill a middle-of-the-order hole now. And because you’d think they probably don’t want to create a second hole for a similar bat, you have to think Luke Voit is on solid footing.
We’ve wondered since season’s end if Voit might be a candidate to be non-tendered before Friday’s deadline. In theory, that could still happen. But if the Nationals did make that move, they’d now be looking for a designated hitter and a left fielder or first baseman. Unless Mike Rizzo has been given the green light to spend more than everyone assumes he will this winter, it’s hard to imagine an Opening Day lineup now that doesn’t include Voit.
* Jake Alu might actually get a chance at third base.
In promoting the 25-year-old to the 40-man roster, the Nationals are at least saying they believe Alu will be in the big leagues sometime in 2023. And if that’s the case, you’d think he should get a real look at third base this spring.
At the moment, the Nats have Carter Kieboom returning from Tommy John surgery, Ildemaro Vargas and Alu, who surprisingly put up big numbers (.323/.372/.553) in 59 games at Triple-A this season as their potential third base options. Kieboom certainly deserves one more shot to prove he can be the guy after missing the entire 2022 campaign, but he’s not just going to be handed the job. Vargas is a decent fallback option, but he’s more valuable as a utilityman who can bounce around positions.
So maybe there’s a sliver of an opening for Alu, a 24th-round pick in the 2019 draft who doesn’t show up on any prospect watch lists but has now hit at three different levels of the minor leagues over the last two seasons.
* Jackson Tetreault and Evan Lee’s potential road back to the rotation just got a lot longer.
Tetreault and Lee both made their major-league debuts this summer, and both showed a bit of potential (more so Tetreault than Lee). But both spent months on the 60-day injured list, and now both are off the 40-man roster, though they remain in the organization.
For either to make it back to D.C., though, the Nationals are going to need to go through a whole lot of other pitchers first. Beyond the current projected rotation of MacKenzie Gore, Cade Cavalli, Josiah Gray, Patrick Corbin and Erick Fedde (if he’s not non-tendered this week), there’s still Paolo Espino and Cory Abbott on the 40-man roster. Joan Adon remains there, as well. As does Stephen Strasburg. And Jake Irvin was added to the list Tuesday, which now puts the 25-year-old in position to merit a midseason call-up if the team needs rotation help.
Circumstances certainly can change – and, lord knows, the Nationals certainly have needed to summon pitchers not on their 40-man roster to the majors before – but Tetreault and Lee are on the outside looking in for now after getting a taste of the big leagues this summer.