Having already acquired Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal to help address their needs in the bullpen, added Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes behind the plate to shore up the catching corps, and signed lefty Patrick Corbin to bolster the rotation, what’s left for the Washington Nationals this week at 2018’s edition of the MLB Winter Meetings?
Is there even any reason for GM Mike Rizzo and Co. to travel to Las Vegas?
“You know I love the Winter Meetings, that’s what it’s all about,” Rizzo told reporters in the nation’s capital on Friday, when Corbin was officially introduced as the Nationals’ newest starter.
“The lobby in the Winter Meetings is a fun place to be. We feel good about the team that we have in place right now. The roster, I think, is constructed in a good, coherent manner. We have a lot of strengths and a lot of flexibility that we didn’t have last year. We have players with options, that is important for us, but you never say you’re done. We always want to improve. If there’s a deal or a free agent that makes sense to us, that helps us become better, we’ve always been aggressive, we’ve always had the resources to do those types of things.
“I don’t consider us done at all, we’re never done. We do this thing. This is my job, so I kind of do this every day and we try to get better every day.”
There is still starting depth to be added, a bench bat or bats, maybe another arm in the bullpen, and in spite of what Managing Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner said about Bryce Harper likely not returning to D.C. after turning down a rumored 10-year/$300M deal, Rizzo said at Winterfest last weekend that he would likely sit down with Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, again this week in Las Vegas, and last night on Twitter New York Post reporter Joel Sherman wrote that Rizzo hasn’t yet closed the door on the possibility of the 26-year-old outfielder returning to Washington.
#Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told me early deals with Corbin, 2 Cs, 2 rlvrs allows time to be more patient with another SP, LH bench bat. As for Harper: “I have done this too long to ever definitively close a door” said Nats r better team today than when made Sept offer to Harper.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 10, 2018
“We always have business with that agency,” which, yes, the Nationals do, “so I’m sure we’ll sit down and meet with them. We meet with just about every agent over there at the Winter Meetings and I don’t think this year will be any different.”
They could also address a perceived need at second base, though Rizzo has stated over the last few weeks that he’s comfortable going with the in-house options should they fail to find a deal that makes sense.
“We feel good with where we’re at with second base,” Rizzo explained recently. “[Wilmer] Difo is a terrific defender at second base and at shortstop, which is very, very valuable. Howie [Kendrick] is a terrific second baseman. We’ve just got to see how he comes back from the achilles [injury]. We know he’s an elite hitter in the batter’s box, and we’ll see how he moves around at second base, but we’ve got two studs [Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia] in the minor leagues that are extremely capable of playing both middle infield positions and I think it’s important to have that depth there.”
Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo, in his weekly Sunday Baseball Notes column, pointed to the bullpen and right side of the infield in suggesting that the Nationals might not be done building for 2019 quite yet.
“Will their remaining resources go toward a second baseman or an elite reliever? Not sure they’ll be all-in with someone such as [Craig] Kimbrel, but more on the [Zach] Britton, [Andrew] Miller, and Adam Ottavino level. And at second base, could it be Brian Dozier, DJ LeMahieu, or even a reunion with Daniel Murphy?”
Murphy is a left-handed bat who could play second base and back up for Zimmerman at first, though his range at second last season after he returned from offseason knee surgery wasn’t what it once was and it was never great.
And while Mr. Lerner’s comments to 106.7 the FAN in D.C. hosts Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier this week seemed to definitively end the speculation about whether Harper might end up back in D.C. in 2019, he didn’t completely rule it out and Rizzo isn’t shutting that door, and there are others out there who are cautioning that anything’s possible as well.
ESPN.com’s Buster Olney wrote this weekend that before, “... anyone completely slams the door shut, it’s worth remembering: Stuff happens. Negotiations take many twists and turns, and if there is one lasting tether between any organization and a particular agent right now, it’s between Harper’s representative, Scott Boras, and the Nationals.”
What will Rizzo and Co. do next in what’s already been an impressive offseason?
As Rizzo told the NY Post’s Sherman, now that they’ve addressed the glaring needs on the roster, they can be more patient as they look for the right players to fit the remaining ones.