What's going to happen once lockout ends?

It's a matter of when, not if, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement and the lockout ends.

Spring will bloom and a new baseball season will be underway.

The real question is what is going to happen once the lockout does, in fact, end?

It wasn't our direct topic of conversation, but that question was discussed a bit on this week's episode of the "MASN All Access Podcast." I came up with three things that fall under that inquiry's umbrella in the form of a fact, a belief and a question.

The fact is that players currently on major league rosters are going to rush to their respective spring training facilities once the lockout is over. A lot of players, especially veterans, are probably already waiting on standby in their spring training housing. Others are probably waiting for the green light to purchase a plane ticket and get to the airport. Some might still have to fly in from other countries.

I don't have children myself, but I have friends and family who have recently had kids and am aware of the to-go bag they had ready for when it was time to go to the hospital. I imagine these players have a similar bag packed at the ready for when it's time to go to spring training.

With bats and gloves instead of bottles and diapers.

Undoubtedly, these players have been working out on their own during the offseason. But nothing compares to the game situations and coaching they get in camp. So they'll be eager to start right away in preparation for the upcoming campaign.

Especially pitchers, who we know from the compressed 2020 season suffer a lot from shortened buildups to the season.

I believe we will see a flurry of free agent signings right when the lockout ends and for the few days that follow, like we saw with the number of signings right before the lockout began. Many around the league share the same sentiment as well.

Unlike rostered players, these guys are uncertain of where to report, but will still have the same desire to start spring training right away.

There are still more than 100 free agents looking for major league jobs. Some will have to settle for minor league deals with invites to spring training and hope they can work their ways onto big league rosters.

Keep in mind that with the expected addition of the designated hitter in the National League this year 15 teams will be looking to fill a new position, creating more major league jobs.

Now we arrive specifically at the Nationals. While I don't see them in the running for the top-tier free agents still on the market, I do believe they will make a handful of additions after the first wave of players sign.

You're not going to see a lot of years and money tossed around by the Nats. I would expect more one-year, low-cost contracts and minor league deals with spring invites.

Obviously, they'll need to address the DH. But they'll probably also address a backup first baseman and help for the back end of the bullpen, which finished with a National League-worst 5.10 ERA last year. I don't imagine general manager Mike Rizzo running it back with the same group of relievers without bringing in some new arms.

Rizzo is also a big proponent of competition in camp, with a track record of signing veteran players to compete for spots in spring training. Combine that with his philosophy of building his teams around starting pitching and you can probably expect him to bring in veteran starters to compete for a spot in the Nats rotation.

Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Josiah Gray and Joe Ross are penciled into the rotation for now, but they all have their own question marks entering this season. Meanwhile, Erick Fedde, Paolo Espino and Josh Rogers would be competing for the fifth starter's spot.

Rizzo also has a track record of bringing in veteran catchers. So I'm expecting him to bring in at least one more backstop via free agency, which could be very helpful for this young crop of pitchers and catchers.

Which finally brings us to our question: What do the Nats do with their young prospects who would have been non-roster invitees?

Thumbnail image for Cavalli-Throws-Blue-Harrisburg-Sidebar.jpgEarly minor league camp started at the Nationals' facility in West Palm Beach this week. Some of their top prospects, such as Cade Cavalli, Brady House, Jackson Rutledge and Cole Henry, are there to get an early start to their seasons.

Other players, such as Dee Strange-Gordon and Maikel Franco, who signed minor league deals with invites to major league spring training in December, are there as well. They're not restricted by the lockout as they were not on major league rosters when it began.

But with an expected shortened camp and compressed spring training game schedule, will there be enough reps to go around? Like we said, veteran players are going to want to get as much work in as they can to prepare for the season, especially pitchers needing to build up arm strength. This might boot some of the prospects, who would have been invited to major league camp in a normal spring, down to the minor league facilities to make room for the guys who will play in the big leagues.

It's not the worst thing for these prospects, but they would lose some valuable learning experiences being around the veteran players and major league coaches.

Or do the Nationals keep them around as long as possible, regardless of how much work the vets need in a shortened amount of time?

I'm interested to see the answer.

Whatever happens with the new CBA, we're all just hoping baseball starts sooner rather than later. Whenever that is, we could be in for a very interesting spring training.

Watch this week's podcast below to hear us talk about these topics in more depth. You can also listen to the audio on your favorite podcasting platforms through the link above.

Amid lockout, prospects learning "Nationals Way" i...
Did the 1994-95 strike ultimately help bring MLB t...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.masnsports.com/