They didn’t have to submit an official 26-man roster for opening day this morning, but the Nationals did make a series of transactions, procedural moves that involved the optioning of six players off the major league spring training roster.
Right-hander Erick Fedde and catcher Tres Barrera were both optioned to Triple-A Fresno, the club announced. Four more players were optioned to Double-A Harrisburg: right-handers James Bourque and Kyle Finnegan, plus infielder Adrián Sanchez and outfielder Andrew Stevenson.
Those moves don’t necessarily reflect what the Nationals would have done to finalize their opening day roster had the start of the season not been delayed. But they perhaps offer a glimpse into team officials’ thinking before Major League Baseball shut down spring training operations two weeks ago.
Fedde seemed destined to open the season in the minors all along, the only of the three right-handers vying for the No. 5 starter’s job who still had an option remaining. Joe Ross and Austin Voth both were expected to make the club, one in the rotation and the other in the bullpen.
Stevenson was in the running for the final spot on the bench, but would have had a tough time cracking the roster if the Nats elected to keep top prospect Carter Kieboom as their starting third baseman. Even if Kieboom winds up opening the year in the minors, Stevenson would still have to beat a group of bench players that includes Emilio Bonifácio and Wilmer Difo.
Bourque and Finnegan were among those competing for one or two available spots in the bullpen. Unless the Nationals recall one of the two, their remaining candidates would include right-handers Ryne Harper and Austen Williams, plus non-roster invitees Javy Guerra, Sam Freeman, Fernando Abad and Kevin Quackenbush.
Sanchez, meanwhile, was optioned to the minors for the fourth consecutive year. A player typically is allowed to be optioned only in three different seasons, but it only counts if the player spends at least 20 days in the minors after he was optioned. The Nationals optioned Sanchez to Triple-A Syracuse on Aug. 29, 2017, but recalled him 10 days later. Thus, that option year didn’t count against him, so he remains eligible to be optioned throughout the 2020 season.