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Washington Nationals decline options on Adam Eaton; Howie Kendrick; Eric Thames; and Aníbal Sánchez

There were some Nationals’ roster moves on Wednesday that sent four more players towards free agency...

MLB: Spring Training-Houston Astros at Washington Nationals Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Asdrúbal Cabrera, Sean Doolittle, Brock Holt, Kurt Suzuki, and Ryan Zimmerman were five of 147 players who became free agents following the conclusion of the 2020 World Series.

In addition, the Nationals announced on Wednesday afternoon that they declined 2021 club options for Adam Eaton and Aníbal Sánchez, and declined their portion of the 2021 mutual options for Howie Kendrick and Eric Thames.

Eaton, 31, is coming off a disappointing .226/.285/.384, 11 double, four home run, -0.5 fWAR season with the Nationals in which he acknowledged he struggled to get comfortable at the plate.

There was a $10.5M club option for 2021 (or a $1.5M buyout) included in the 5-year/$23.5M deal Eaton signed with the White Sox in 2015 before Chicago traded him to Washington in 2016.

Eaton’s season ended in mid-September when he suffered a fractured left index finger.

“It’s fitting for how my year went to end on that note,” Eaton told reporters.

“On a personal level, with the contract next year, like I said, to do what I did this year and then to end up on the IL at the end the year is just as fitting as it could be.”

Sánchez, who’ll turn 37 in February, was (4-5) in 11 starts in his second season in D.C., with a 6.62 ERA, a 5.46 FIP, 18 walks (3.06 BB/9), and 43 Ks (7.03 K/9) in 53 IP in a 0.2 fWAR season.

The 2-year/$19M deal Sánchez signed with the Nationals in December of 2018 included a $12M club option for 2021 (or a $2M buyout).

“I still think he has stuff left in the tank,” manager Davey Martinez said after Sánchez’s final start of the 2020 campaign.

“I love him ... I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but I know he can still pitch.

“And I told him that today, I said, ‘You still got a lot left in the tank, so just get after it this winter and we’ll see where it’s at.”

Thames, 33, struggled at the plate after signing a 1-year/$4M contract with the 2019 World Series champs in January of 2020, finishing the 60-game campaign at .203/.300/.317, with five doubles and three homers in 41 games and 140 plate appearances, over which he was worth -0.7 fWAR.

“It’s definitely a grind ... it’s a grind,” a frustrated Thames said of the COVID campaign experience in late September. “That’s all I’m going to say, holy cow, oh, man. Yeah.”

There was a $4M mutual option included in his deal with the Nationals (or a $1M buyout).

Kendrick, 37, struggled with injuries in 2020, playing in a total of 25 games and putting up a .275/.320/.385 line with four doubles and two home runs in 100 plate appearances. He had a $6.5M mutual option (or $2.25M buyout) included in the 1-year/$6.25M he signed with the Nationals last winter, after helping the club with the 2019 World Series.

Kendrick revealed this winter that he planned for the 2020 season (his 15th in the majors) to be his last, before the COVID pandemic affected everyone’s plans for the season. He said he is on the fence as to whether he’ll return for a 16th big league campaign.

“I’m holding on to his leg on the other side of the fence,” Martinez said earlier this winter.


There’s a five-day period in which the rest of the MLB teams have to decided whether or not they will exercise options included in player contracts, the Nationals made those decisions.

Free agents can sign with their current team during this five-day period, and they are free to sign with other teams once the period ends.

Teams have until November 1st (at 5:00 ET) to make qualifying offers (of one-year/$18.9M deals) to their own free agents before the free agent period officially begins on November 2nd.

Going into the offseason, after a disappointing 24-36 follow-up to their World Series win, GM Mike Rizzo told reporters in late September how he would approach roster building over the winter.

“We’re always trying to get bigger, better, younger, faster, and more successful, but having a good hybrid of exciting young players and experienced veterans was our recipe for success from 2012-2019, and we’ll take steps into sticking with our philosophy. But I think we have to get a roster that can handle the rigors of a 162-game season and then an extra month of playing. And I think that we have — after we do our summary of 2020, we’ll find out what worked, what didn’t work, what we have to improve on and by Spring Training we’re hoping to have a roster in place that’s going to compete for the National League East championship and the World Series championship.”