Although he never owned the headlines with a splashy move this offseason, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo significantly altered the complexion of his team’s roster. With the new additions, the Nationals should be a more consistent hitting team that fills bases along with a crew of veteran relievers who hopefully can secure leads.
So which Nationals newcomer will have the biggest impact in 2016?
Daniel Murphy was Rizzo’s biggest free agent acquisition this past winter. A 2006 13th-round draft pick by the Mets, Murphy played all seven of his major league seasons in New York, batting .288/.331/.424. The left-handed swinger drilled a career-high 14 homers with 38 doubles and 73 RBIs while slashing .281/.322/.449 in 130 games for the National League East champions last season.
Murphy’s bat then exploded in the playoffs, smashing homers in a postseason record six straight games en route to winning the National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player award. In helping the Mets to the World Series, Murphy batted .328 with seven homers and 11 RBIs over 14 postseason games last year.
The Nationals plan to start Murphy at second base where he is considered a mediocre fielder. He also has the ability to play first base and third base.
With Denard Span heading to the Giants in free agency, the Nationals were searching for a speedy left-handed hitter who could play center field. In a trade with the Blue Jays, Rizzo seemingly answered all by acquiring Ben Revere.
“He’s one of the fastest players in the league,” Rizzo said. Revere has swiped 176 bases in 645 games over five-plus seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old has batted over .300 in his last three years and tied Span for most hits in the NL in 2014 with 184.
Like Murphy, defense is not Revere’s strong suit, but he can play all three outfield positions.
When Rizzo shipped right-hander Drew Storen to Toronto for Revere, a void was left for an eighth-inning setup man. Veteran reliever Shawn Kelley, who signed a three-year, $15 million deal with the Nats in December, might fit the bill.
Kelley, who will turn 32 on April 26, posted a 2.45 ERA with 63 strikeouts against 15 walks in 51 1/3 innings for the Padres last season. Righties batted .218, while lefties only managed to hit at a .224 clip against Kelley. Thirty-one of his outings came in the eighth inning or later in 2015.
In his seven-year career in the majors as a reliever with the Mariners, Yankees and Padres, Kelley owns a 3.67 ERA.
Trevor Gott, acquired in a trade with the Angels for Yunel Escobar, is another new reliever who should factor into high-leverage situations. The hard-throwing 23-year-old right-hander made his major league debut last June and posted a 3.02 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 48 appearances. Gott, whose fastball averaged 96 mph, struck out 27 with 16 walks over 47 2/3 innings. He held right-handed hitters to a .214 clip while lefties batted .275.
Who knows, maybe veteran infielder Stephen Drew pushes Danny Espinosa at shortstop during spring training. What if veteran right-hander Bronson Arroyo rebounds from Tommy John surgery to resurrect his career in the Nationals starting rotation? How about a minor leaguer not necessarily on the radar - like right-hander Joe Ross in 2015 - making a difference this season?
So which newcomer will have the most impact in 2016?