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 to think the pressure to get more aggressive is going to start building here soon.
The Nationals’ season ended 14 weeks ago. Since then, they’ve acquired three players who have gone on the 40-man roster: Josh Bell, Sam Clay and Rogelio Armenteros. That’s not exactly a tidal wave of activity.
Not that the rest of baseball has been particularly active, either. Aside from the Padres and maybe the Mets, nobody has really made more than passing news so far this winter. Something’s got to give eventually.
We kind of expecting things to move slowly this offseason. The last two winters already trended in that direction. Throw in the continued uncertainty about the plan for the 2021 season, and it’s not surprising we’ve seen so little action to date.
But the clock is ticking. Pitchers and catchers, in theory, are due to report to Florida and Arizona in six weeks. There are a boatload of free agents still waiting to sign contracts.
The Nationals still only have 34 players on their 40-man roster. They still need a corner outfielder, a No. 4 starter, a backup first baseman, a second catcher and at least one veteran reliever (preferably a left-hander). They could also pursue a third baseman (or possibly a second baseman).
So there’s no shortage of assignments awaiting Rizzo when he turns on his laptop this morning. The question is: Which of those assignments are most pressing and which ones can be pushed aside for another few weeks?
The view here is that two of the roster openings need to be filled fairly soon: the outfielder and the No. 4 starter.
There are still plenty of outfielders available, so it’s not like the market has thinned. But this is a critical piece that needs to be added. And if you’re Rizzo, you want to have your pick of the litter. Whatever he feels is most important for that position - offense, defense, price - he still has the opportunity to establish his own priorities and not be subject to the rest of the league.
There are fewer remaining options for the open rotation slot, at least fewer options that would seem to make the most sense for the Nationals. They’re not expected to spend big bucks on another ace like Trevor Bauer, focusing instead on a reliable veteran who will accept a short-term deal much like Aníbal Sánchez did two years ago.
Again, you’d think Rizzo would want to identify his No. 1 choice and aggressively go after him rather than wait for others to move the market.
The remaining moves can probably wait a while longer. A second catcher isn’t an urgent priority on Jan. 4. Relievers are always available. And Ryan Zimmerman is just a phone call away. (For what it’s worth, he signed his one-year, $2 million deal last year on Jan. 24.)
That’s what’s still on the Nationals’ agenda. It’s a lot. But there are reasonable options available to them to fill each of the holes and report for spring training with a contending roster.
Now they just need to go out and actually make the moves.