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Why the Nats keep finding themselves in need of catchers

The Nationals’ acquisition Thursday evening of Alex Avila was no surprise. Which is to say, we’d known for months they were going to need to acquire a catcher from outside the organization to replace Kurt Suzuki and share the job with Yan Gomes. Whether it was Avila or one of the other available free agents, the Nats had to get themselves another catcher this winter,

Daniel Murphy, hitter extraordinaire, announces retirement

Daniel Murphy, owner of the highest batting average and second-highest OPS in Nationals history, announced his retirement Friday, bringing an end to a 12-year career that peaked just as he was about to come to Washington and thus made him a significant part of club lore. “This is a beautiful game, and I really just feel humbled and blessed that it let me jump on

Is the Nationals’ 2021 roster now in place?

They got the first baseman they needed. They got the corner outfielder they wanted. They got the No. 4 starter they desired. They got the left-handed reliever they coveted. They brought back the face of the franchise for another season. And now they got the No. 2 catcher they were lacking. The Nationals went into the offseason with a clear checklist, and though it took

Nationals tab veteran Avila for No. 2 catching job

The Nationals appear to have found their backup catcher, one who has a prior relationship with three-fifths of their rotation. Alex Avila, the 12-year veteran of five organizations (most extensively the Tigers), has agreed to a one-year deal with the Nats, a source familiar with the contract confirmed. Avila, who turns 34 on Friday, still needs to pass a physical before the transaction is official.

On Lester’s durability, pickoff issues and need for good defense

Some more thoughts on and from Jon Lester, the newest member of the Nationals rotation, who was formally introduced Wednesday during a Zoom session with reporters ... * The best thing Lester has going for him is durability. He made at least 31 starts every season from 2008-19, and he made all 12 of his scheduled starts last season. Lester has been on the injured

Lester comes to D.C. with one goal in mind: “I want to win”

He’s won three championships for two iconic franchises, started Game 1 of the World Series, appeared in Game 7 of the Fall Classic and pitched in a bunch of postseason clinchers. He beat cancer. He’s made nearly $200 million in career earnings. He’ll never have to buy anyone another drink in Boston or Chicago (though he actually did buy a whole lot of people drinks

On Hand’s velocity, Lester’s physical and Realmuto’s signing

Some assorted news and notes for you on this Wednesday morning ... * Much has been made of Brad Hand’s diminished fastball velocity last season, and it has been presented as perhaps cause for concern as the left-hander joins the back end of the Nationals bullpen. But is this anything to actually worry about? First, let’s look at the numbers. Hand’s four-seam fastball averaged 92.7

My 2021 Hall of Fame ballot

There’s no greater privilege in this business than serving as a Hall of Fame voter. And there’s no greater feeling than seeing one of baseball’s greatest get the news of his election, knowing you played a small role in making it happen. So it’s always disappointing to put the time and effort into voting in a given year and then find out nobody was elected.

Newly signed Hand comfortable with any late-inning role

Though he was the consensus best reliever available on the free agent market this winter, Brad Hand spent 2 1/2 months waiting to learn where he would pitch in 2021. Chalk it up to this most unusual offseason across baseball, and it’s understandable, though no less nerve-wracking for the players involved. Early in the process, though, Hand knew the Nationals were among the teams interested

Will any new Hall of Famers be elected tonight?

Hall of Fame election day should be an enjoyable event. We should spend our time celebrating the careers of the greatest players baseball has to offer and engaging in spirited but friendly debates about those players who didn’t get enough votes to make it to Cooperstown. Unfortunately, this probably isn’t going to be one of those election days. For a number of reasons, this could

With four late-inning arms, Nats have plenty of relief options

A few national baseball writers referred to Brad Hand as the Nationals’ “new closer” upon reporting his contract agreement Sunday night. Don’t be so sure about that. Though Hand certainly is going to end up closing some games for the Nats this season, that’s not technically the role the club has in mind for him. It’s safe to say Davey Martinez will use Hand whenever

Nationals bolster bullpen with top available lefty Hand

The Nationals have known all winter they needed an experienced left-hander for their bullpen, someone who could be counted upon to get big outs late in games. They’re going to wind up getting the best one available. The Nats are in agreement with veteran reliever Brad Hand on a one-year deal worth $10.5 million, pending a physical, a source familiar with the signing confirmed. Once

Bell-Zimmerman combo at first base could work nicely for Nats

What kind of production can the Nationals expect from their first basemen in 2021? Would they be satisfied with 30 homers, 99 RBIs, a .305 batting average, .390 on-base percentage and .997 OPS? Because that’s what you get when you combine Josh Bell’s 2019 numbers against right-handers and Ryan Zimmerman’s 2019 numbers against left-handers. Yep, if Bell took all the at-bats against righties and Zimmerman

Zimmerman not back for “victory lap,” believes he can help

Ryan Zimmerman was close to 100 percent confident all along he’d return to play for the Nationals this year after opting out of the 2020 season. But his motives weren’t personal, and they weren’t about ensuring his career didn’t end without playing one more season for the only franchise he’s ever known. “Me coming back this year was in no means for a victory lap

Davey Johnson back home after hospital stint with COVID-19

Former Nationals manager Davey Johnson was hospitalized this week with COVID-19 but was back at his Florida home resting comfortably Friday evening, according to a message from his wife to the Mets’ longtime public relations director. Word of Johnson’s illness first became public Friday afternoon when Ken Davidoff of the New York Post sent him a text message seeking his thoughts on Hank Aaron following

Zimmerman will return to Nats for 2021 on one-year deal

Ryan Zimmerman will indeed play at least one more season for the Nationals after sitting out 2020. Zimmerman, as anticipated all along, agreed to terms on a one-year deal today with the only franchise that has ever employed him. Once finalized it will include a $1 million base salary plus incentives, a source familiar with the contract said. Though he opted out of last season

Young arms need to step up if Nats want better prospect ranking

Prospect rankings should always be taken with a grain of salt. And if there’s anyone in baseball whose mouth is over-seasoned from lack of interest in prospect rankings, it’s Mike Rizzo. The Nationals general manager doesn’t care what any outside publication says about his farm system. He cares only about what he sees with his own eyes and what his scouts and coaches see with

What’s still left on the Nationals’ shopping list?

The Nationals have made three significant acquisitions so far this offseason, and they addressed unquestionably the club’s three biggest needs. They needed a first baseman, and they got one in Josh Bell. They needed a corner outfielder, and they got one in Kyle Schwarber. And they needed a No. 4 starter, and they got one in Jon Lester. But that’s not all the Nationals needed

Sutton left lasting impression across baseball, including D.C.

To Dodgers fans, he was the stalwart member of a championship-caliber pitching staff in the 1970s. To Braves fans, he was the soothing and smart voice who shared his exceptional insight on the air throughout the 1990s and 2000s. To Orioles fans, he was the Brewers’ Game 162 starter who dashed their dream of a miracle final weekend surge to the 1982 American League East

Nats are trying to go for it again behind an elite rotation

The Nationals’ opening day starter against the Mets is 36 and entering his 14th big league season. The pitcher who will start the season’s second game is 32 and needed wrist surgery last summer after throwing only five innings. The club’s No. 3 starter is 31 but coming off a career-worst season in which he had the highest WHIP in the majors. And the guy

Nats finalizing deal with five-time All-Star lefty Lester

The Nationals’ search for a No. 4 starter appears to have landed on a former ace and postseason hero with ties to the manager and pitching coach. Jon Lester, the three-time World Series champion with the Red Sox and Cubs, is finalizing a one-year deal with the Nats, a source familiar with the discussions confirmed. Though he still needs to pass a physical to make

A modest proposal for a better postseason format

Among the pressing topics reportedly still being discussed between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association as the 2021 season inches ever closer is the possibility of keeping the playoff field expanded again. You’ll recall that 16 teams made the postseason in 2020, six more than ever had before. It was an acknowledgment of the inability of a 60-game season to distinguish the best

If Nats desire another infielder, plenty of options remain

Whether the Nationals were ever seriously interested in DJ LeMahieu isn’t clear, but here’s what is clear: They were never going to match the six-year, $90 million offer the veteran infielder reportedly accepted from the Yankees on Friday. Look, LeMahieu would’ve been a great fit for the Nats. He could’ve led off or batted second, creating an elite 1-2-3 trio with Trea Turner and Juan

Suzuki, Difo find new homes for 2021

Not that either was expected to return to D.C. for another season, but a pair of notable Nationals players from recent years - Kurt Suzuki and Wilmer Difo - officially found new homes Friday. Suzuki signed with the Angels for one year and $1.5 million. Difo agreed to a minor league contract with the Pirates that will include an invitation to big league camp this

Nats avoid arbitration with Soto, Turner and Bell (updated)

The Nationals came to terms on 2021 salaries with Juan Soto, Trea Turner and Josh Bell today, avoiding arbitration with their three biggest offensive stars. Though the deadline for players and clubs to agree to salaries or file for arbitration was 1 p.m., it took hours for Major League Baseball to process the throng of cases that were submitted to league headquarters before many could

Nats’ Latin American program has come a long way

The Nationals have been linked to top Dominican prospect Armando Cruz for nearly a year and a half now, and today they’re finally expected to announce they’ve signed the elite young shortstop for a reported $4 million bonus. It’s a whopping total for a kid who turns 17 on Saturday, and it’s perhaps the latest and most convincing evidence just how far the Nats’ Latin

Arbitration process is complicated for three Nats stars

The majority of arbitration cases are relatively simple. Players who have accrued between three and six years of big league service time and their clubs typically agree on a salary figure without ever needing to file for arbitration or have their cases heard before a panel. There are always a few complicated cases, though, usually involving big-name players whose salary requests go well beyond what

Improved lineup or not, Nats need to pitch better in 2021

The Nationals’ stated No. 1 priority this winter was to acquire a big bat, and the recent acquisitions of both Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber each meet that criteria. But let’s be honest here: The Nats’ best path to contending in 2021 isn’t via a more productive lineup, it’s via a more effective pitching staff. As glaring as the hole in the heart of the

Tuesday morning Nats Q&A

Hey, what do you know, the Nationals actually made some news over the weekend. They acquired their second potentially big bat of the winter, signing left fielder Kyle Schwarber for one year and a guaranteed $10 million. This after trading for first baseman Josh Bell on Christmas Eve. It’s a start, but the Nats are far from finished assembling their 2021 roster. There are more

Does bolstered Nats lineup still need another piece?

The Nationals lineup, as currently constructed this morning, features three guys who hit at least 34 homers and drove in at least 92 runs during the last full major league season. It also includes another guy who hit 22 homers and drove in 86 runs that season, plus one who totaled 63 extra-base hits and yet another who totaled 53. That sounds like a pretty

For Schwarber, Nats were always “my No. 1 choice”

Kyle Schwarber had been a Cub his entire professional life, since the North Siders made him the fourth pick in the country in 2014, back when they were still lovable losers and didn’t dare dream of breaking the Billy Goat Curse. So when he learned a month ago the Cubs had non-tendered him, and he was suddenly searching for a new employer for the first

Source: Nats adding another big lefty bat in Schwarber

The Nationals are acquiring another big left-handed bat and appear to be building a lineup capable of hitting a bunch of homers, drawing a lot of walks and hoping not to hurt itself too much in the field. The latest addition: Kyle Schwarber, the power-hitting former Cubs outfielder, who has agreed to a one-year deal worth $10 million, a source familiar with the terms confirmed.

Ranking the Nats’ 19 home playoff games, from best to worst

There’s a postseason game being played tonight in Washington. Er, Landover. But you get the idea. Remarkably, this is only the fourth time the Washington Football Team is hosting a playoff game in the last three decades. It hasn’t won a home playoff game since its 27-13 victory over the Lions in the 1999 NFC wild card contest. The Nationals, on the other hand, have

Time for Turner to get his due (and his dollars)

Francisco Lindor is a superstar, perhaps the best shortstop in baseball, and that’s why folks in New York were so ecstatic Thursday when they learned the Mets had just acquired the 27-year-old (plus right-hander Carlos Carrasco) from Cleveland in a blockbuster trade. Now for something that might surprise you: Lindor and Trea Turner have the exact same career OPS of .833. Yep, the rightly regarded

Remembering an uplifting event in the shadow of the Capitol

A terrible thing happened here Wednesday, and for the world, it was terribly difficult to watch. For those who actually live here, it was even worse. Because it happened in our own backyard, in a place where major events often take place but rarely produce the kind of anger and sadness this event did. And watching it unfold on television, I couldn’t help but think

Why aren’t the Nats as aggressive as they were one year ago?

On Jan. 2, 2020, the Nationals signed Will Harris to a three-year deal. On Jan. 3, 2020, they signed Starlin Castro to a two-year deal. On Jan. 6, 2020, they re-signed Daniel Hudson to a two-year deal. Roughly two hours later, they signed Eric Thames to a one-year deal. That’s four significant free agent moves in a four-day span, an avalanche of news that feels

Could the Nats bring back any of their own free agents?

We spend a lot of time talking about free agents the Nationals might be interested in acquiring, newcomers who could help bolster their 2021 roster. But what about the possibility of re-signing free agents who played here in 2020? The Nationals already brought back one guy who could’ve departed: Josh Harrison, who signed a one-year deal very early in the offseason. Otherwise, they’ve stayed away

Will new year lead to new urgency to fill roster holes?

The new year began four days ago, but for practical purposes the new business year begins today. So perhaps that means we’re about to get an influx of transactions by the Nationals? Hey, it’s 2021. Anything’s possible, right? Who knows if general manager Mike Rizzo will be making any announcements today, tomorrow or some other day later this week, but if nothing else you’ve got

The Nationals’ all-time leaderboards

It’s Nostalgia Weekend here on the blog. If you missed it yesterday, we looked at the long list of guys who never played in the major leagues again after playing for the Nationals. Today we’re looking at the best of the best in Nats history. Yes, it’s time to revisit the club’s all-time leaderboards. Now that they’ve got 16 seasons under their belts, the Nationals

All the ballplayers whose careers ended in D.C.

A total of 370 players have appeared in at least one game for the Nationals since 2005. Some of them were longtime stalwarts who are forever associated fondly with this franchise. Some were only here for a year or two as part of successful careers with multiple clubs. And some of them played for a while in Washington and then never played in the big

Why 2021 will be better than 2020

You already know this, but 2020 was a pretty awful year. Not that many folks didn’t experience some legitimately positive moments, but in the big picture this was among the worst years in most everybody’s lives. Now, you have to be awfully na├»ve to believe that the world is suddenly going to change for the better just because we’re all opening up a new calendar

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