WASHINGTON – ‘Tis the season – free agent season that is.
The Washington Nationals, will several holes to fill or at least upgrade, could be in the market for a free agent or two this offseason.
And with pandemic still spreading, the future of 2021 – will there be fans? – is certainly up in the air and could impact the amount of money the Nats’ owners, the Lerner family, spends.
Here is a look back at the three best and three worst free agent signings, at least from one person’s view:
NATIONALS’ TOP 3 FREE AGENT SIGNINGS:
1. Pitcher Max Scherzer
Not only the best free-agent signing for the Nationals but perhaps one of the best in MLB history and at the top for all of Washington sports as well.
The Nationals shocked a lot of people when Scherzer signed a seven-year deal for a reported $210 million in January 2015.
Starting pitching was already a strength – but it got better.
St. Louis native Scherzer has more than come through: two no-hitters, two Cy Young Awards (with the Nats and three total), and the starting pitcher in the deciding Game 7 of the World Series win in 2019. And on top of that, he is a clubhouse presence that hates to lose.
Scherzer slumped to a 3.74 ERA in 12 starts in 2020 and has one more year on his deal. No matter what happens in 2021, this free agent has been more than worth it.
2. Outfielder Jayson Werth
Jayson Werth, drafted as a catcher by the Orioles out of high school, was never part of a team that won a postseason series with Washington.
But his deal with the Nationals – after being part of a winner in Philadelphia – brought a veteran presence to a team when he signed a seven-year deal for $126 million before the 2011 season.
Werth hit at least 10 homers every year but one with the Nationals and connected for at least 16 on four occasions. He played in just 70 games in his last season with the team in 2017.
Werth played in 36 games in 2018 with Triple-A Tacoma in the Seattle system before calling it a career.
3. Infielder Daniel Murphy
It is hard to argue with the individual numbers on offense for Daniel Murphy while he was in Washington.
He signed a three-year deal with the Nationals after leading the Mets to the World Series in 2015.
While limited on defense at second base, the Florida native hit .347 with a league-high 47 doubles in his first season with the Nationals in 2016. He led the league in OPS as well at .985.
He had 43 doubles and batted .322 for Washington in 2017 as the Nationals won the National League East title again.
Murphy was batting .300 with the Nationals when he was traded to the Chicago Cubs during the 2018 season.
Not only did the Nationals get a stopgap at second base, the signing of Murphy kept him away from division rival Mets – who were probably not going to sign him anyway despite a record-setting playoff in 2015.
Murphy spent 2019 and 2020 with Colorado and is once again a free agent.
NATIONALS’ WORST 3 FREE AGENT SIGNINGS:
1. Outfielder Nate McLouth
A really nice guy – but he had one terrible year in Washington.
Nate McLouth, a Michigan native, broke in with the Pirates in 2005 and was an All-Star three years later as hit 46 doubles and 26 homers.
Even at the age of 31 in 2013, he hit 12 homers with an OPS of .729 in 146 games for the Orioles.
Signed as a free agent by the Nationals before the 2014 season (two years, $10.75 million per reports), the left-handed hitter was beset by injuries and poor performance at the plate.
In 79 games with the Nationals, he hit just one homer with a batting average of .173 and an OPS of .517.
It was to be his last year in the majors and in organized ball.
2. First baseman Eric Thames
It was only a one-year deal – but it didn’t go well.
Maybe it was the change of scenery. Maybe it was the pandemic. Maybe it was the 60-game season.
Whatever it was, Eric Thames on offense was a bust for the Nationals in 2020. And at times his defense wasn’t so great either.
After posting OPS numbers of .877, .783, and .851 in three years with the Brewers, the lefty hitter had a mark of .617 in 41 games with Washington this past year.
After hitting 72 homers with the Brewers from 2017-19, he had just two with the Nationals with an average of .203.
With Ryan Zimmerman opting out of the season, the Nationals production at first base was among the worst in the league.
3. Catcher Matt Wieters
Another free agent signing by a player who had been in Baltimore.
A switch-hitter, Wieters was a first-round pick, 5th overall, taken out of Georgia Tech by the Orioles in 2007.
He was an All-Star for the fourth time in 2016 when he hit 17 homers for the Orioles.
The South Carolina native signed a two-year deal with the Nationals before the 2017 campaign.
Wieters played in 123 games in 2017 and hit just .238.
The next year he played in 76 contests and batted only .214 as the Nationals had some of the least productive catching numbers on offense as a unit in the majors.
He was also behind the plate in the horrible inning with Max Scherzer on the mound in the playoff loss to the Chicago Cubs in Game 5 of the NLDS in 2017.
Wieters has spent the past two years as a backup catcher with the St. Louis Cardinals.