What to watch for as the offseason officially begins

The World Series ended five days ago. That means, for all intents and purposes, the offseason begins today.

While there have been a few newsworthy developments up to this point, today marks the more official start of the Hot Stove League. Free agents may begin to sign contracts. Teams must set their 40-man rosters. Decisions of real consequence will start being made.

What might this offseason have in store for the Nationals? Here’s a primer to get you in the right frame of mind for what comes next …

The first order of business is setting the organization’s 40-man roster, which for the last seven months has included more than 40 players. That’s because anyone on the 60-day injured list didn’t count against the total.

But there is no IL during the offseason. Healthy or not, everyone must be included on the 40-man roster or else be placed on waivers, made available to other teams or just flat-out released altogether.

Here’s what you need to know about the Nats: They currently have 36 healthy players on the 40-man roster and five others who must come off the 60-day IL (Riley Adams, Cade Cavalli, Stone Garrett, Victor Robles, Stephen Strasburg). That’s one too many. Somebody is going to need to be dropped.

And unless something has dramatically changed in recent weeks, Strasburg isn’t going to be that somebody. Not yet at least. Unless he and the team agreed to some sort of terms on the $105 million he’s still owed, he won’t officially retire. Which means the Nationals are required to include him on the 40-man roster all winter, even though everyone acknowledges he’s never going to pitch again.

It’s a messy situation, to say the least. And someone else in the organization will probably suffer as a result, getting dropped from the 40-man roster, either to be outrighted to the minors or released into free agency.

At least four members of Davey Martinez’s 2023 coaching staff aren’t returning next season: bench coach Tim Bogar, third base coach Gary DiSarcina, first base coach Eric Young Jr. and assistant hitting coach Pat Roessler. The team has already filled two of the vacancies, with sources confirming the promotions of Gerardo Parra to first base coach and Ricky Gutierrez to third base coach.

That leaves the bench coach and assistant hitting coach positions, at minimum, to be filled. The team could promote from within, perhaps bumping catching and strategy coach Henry Blanco up to bench coach. Or it could go outside to address these spots.

Either way, decisions should be coming soon to round out Martinez’s 2024 staff.

The Nationals spent a grand total of $22 million on four free agents last winter, signing Jeimer Candelario ($5 million), Dominic Smith ($2 million) and Corey Dickerson ($2 million) to one-year deals while giving Trevor Williams ($13 million) a two-year contract.

That wasn’t much, and it leaves everyone wondering whether that number will rise, fall or stay roughly the same this winter.

What does the team need? It needs a left fielder, for sure. It might need a third baseman. And it might need another veteran starting pitcher, one that would bump Williams to a long relief role.

The Nationals could try to take the affordable route again and sign players to one-year deals as stop-gap solutions who could then be moved at the trade deadline. They did it quite well with Candelario, not nearly as well with Smith and Dickerson. Or they could splurge a bit more and try to bring on players of a higher caliber, whether in terms of a higher one-year salary or even a multi-year deal.

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