The Nationals did not tender contracts to relievers Javy Guerra and Koda Glover before tonight’s league-mandated deadline, essentially releasing both right-handers, though the oft-injured Glover had already announced his retirement earlier this afternoon.
The club did tender contracts to four other arbitration-eligible players: Trea Turner, Michael A. Taylor, Joe Ross and Roenis Elías. None of those players have agreed to terms on 2020 contracts yet, as Wilmer Difo and Hunter Strickland did over the last two days, so they’ll still need to negotiate salaries over the next month or else file for arbitration.
The Guerra move was the most notable of the evening, though not a huge surprise. The 34-year-old reliever actually had been designated for assignment back on July 31, only to be re-signed three days later after Elías strained his hamstring in his Nationals debut. The veteran remained on the active roster the rest of the season and into the postseason, popular among teammates and coaches for his willingness to pitch in any role asked of him.
But Guerra would have been due a decent raise this winter via arbitration. MLBTradeRumors.com projected him to earn a salary of $1.3 million. The Nationals decided not to make that kind of commitment right now, though they could seek to re-sign the righty to a lesser deal at some point this offseason.
The club will pay raises to Turner (projected to make $7.5 million), Taylor ($3.25 million), Elías ($1.9 million) and Ross ($1.4 million) and bring each back for spring training (barring any trades).
The Nationals formally announced the Difo and Strickland signings early in the afternoon, having agreed to terms with both players on one-year contracts to avoid arbitration.
Difo, whose agreement was reported Sunday evening, will make $1 million if he’s on the big league roster to begin the season, according to a source familiar with the terms. (The Nats could elect to release him during spring training and be responsible for as little as one-sixth of his salary.)
Strickland seems a safer bet to make it, given the club’s bullpen needs and his track record of success prior to joining the Nationals in July. The 31-year-old owned a 2.91 ERA and 1.195 WHIP in 253 appearances for the Giants from 2014-18, establishing himself as a reliable setup man (even if Nats fans knew him far more for giving up two postseason homers to Bryce Harper and then intentionally throwing at him three years later).
Non-tendered by San Francisco last winter, Strickland signed with the Mariners but made only four appearances before landing on the injured list with a strained lat muscle in his upper back. The Nationals acquired him at the July 31 trade deadline, and over his first 10 appearances he posted a 2.70 ERA. He struggled down the stretch, though, with a 9.00 ERA over his final 14 regular season outings and two postseason meltdowns.
Strickland’s deal for 2020 is for $1.6 million, according to a source familiar with the terms.