With a flurry of moves over the past few days, GM Mike Rizzo and Co. in Washington’s front office went a long way towards shaping the Nationals’ roster for the 2020 season, with Will Harris inking a 3-year/$24M deal to work in the back end of the bullpen, and two infielders, Starlin Castro (2-years/$12M) and Asdrúbal Cabrera (1-year/$2.5M), both signing on in D.C.
Harris, 35, gives the Nationals a reliable and durable reliever who can work late innings and set closer Sean Doolittle up for the ninth.
Castro, who turns 30 in March, is expected to play second in the nation’s capital according to reports which followed the announcement of his deal.
Cabrera, who signed with the Nationals this past August, after he was released by the Texas Rangers, can play multiple positions in the infield, and gives manager Davey Martinez a few options, depending on how the pursuit of free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson plays out over the next few days/weeks/months.
The additions in the infield apparently haven’t taken the defending World Series champions out of the market for Donaldson, who, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, “is mulling four-year offers from the Nationals, Braves and Twins.”
“He has informed teams of his desired guarantee and is simply waiting for one of the clubs to hit his number, sources say. That number is believed to be in the $110 million range.”
It’s believed Nats’ 100M-plus offer to Donaldson has not been withdrawn and is still on table even after Starlin/Asdrubal deals. Doesn’t mean they are confident in pursuit. But they aren’t completely out of game. At least Braves and Twins also in.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 4, 2020
Minnesota Star Tribune writer Phil Miller wrote this weekend that while the, “Twins’ pursuit of Josh Donaldson isn’t over ... the team has grown pessimistic about the outcome.”
“The Twins are bracing for an announcement about Donaldson’s intentions this week, especially in the wake of a published report on Friday that he wants a four-year contract worth $110 million.”
Will the Nationals, who have options at third base with Cabrera (or Kendrick?) or top infield prospect Carter Kieboom options at the hot corner, be willing to give the 34-year-old up to $27.5M over four years?
“Cabrera mostly played second for the Nationals,” Rosenthal noted, “... but also could slide back to third, perhaps in combination with Howie Kendrick,” who returned to the club on a 1-year/$6.5M deal after helping the team win the World Series this past season.
Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell wrote this weekend that the deal with Cabrera, was for, “... an amount so low it gives maximum flexibility to keep pursuing Donaldson,” and the, “versatile combination of Castro, Cabrera, Kendrick and top prospect Carter Kieboom, who has played short, second and third, also means that the Nats have their No-Josh Plan B in place,” should Donaldson sign elsewhere.
Is the Harris deal the last one the Nationals’ GM will make with a reliever this winter, or are there still bullpen additions to come?
Boswell suggests that if the Nationals don’t sign Donaldson, then Daniel Hudson could still be a possibility, and, “they’ll have so much payroll room under the competitive balance tax threshold,” it could make sense even after adding Harris.
Hudson, of course, was on the mound when the final out of the World Series was recorded this past October, and he remains unsigned this winter after hitting the free agent market following an impressive 2019 campaign.
Hudson is reportedly looking for a multi-year deal, however, and it seems unlikely that the Nationals are going to hand out another one for a mid-30s reliever after signing Harris last week.
Rizzo and Co. still need to figure out first base, with Ryan Zimmerman returning a possibility and Rosenthal suggesting that they could also add “a left-handed-hitting complement such as Eric Thames, Mitch Moreland or Matt Adams,” to split time there.
What other roster needs do you think the Nationals need to fill before Opening Day 2020?
If they miss out on Donaldson, do you see the Nats trying to add another third baseman (in a trade for the likes of Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado, or Kyle Seager, the potential targets who have been mentioned this winter)? Just don’t ask for Victor Robles as part of the return for any of the aforementioned infielders...
Do they have the arms in the bullpen now, with the addition of Harris? Or do the Nationals still need to add to the relief corps? What else would you like to see the club do before it’s time for pitchers and catchers to report to West Palm Beach?