Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters on the first day of Spring Training he was hopeful the club would come to agreements with all their arbitration-eligible players before they had to go to any trials, and as of last night, the team had officially announced deals with six of seven who remained unsigned, all but Victor Robles.
Andrew Stevenson agreed to a 1-year/$850,000 deal with the Nationals back in late November, a raise from the $579,100 he earned in 2021.
With the deadline to sign players or submit figures to the league set for Tuesday afternoon, the club announced deals with Josh Bell (reportedly on a 1-year/$10M contract, which is up from $6.35M in 2021) Juan Soto ($17.1M, up from $8.5M) Joe Ross ($2.4M, from $1.5M), Erick Fedde ($2.15M, from $599,200), Austin Voth ($875,000, up from $587,700), and Tanner Rainey (no details, projected $800,000, up from $589,000).
Deals with Fedde, Ross, Rainey, and Voth were announced first, with the club noting in the announcement they would “continue to negotiate” with Bell, Robles, and Soto. Soto’s deal and Bell’s were announced later.
Robles, 24, is reported to have submitted $2.1M figure, with the Nationals at $1.6M.
MLBTraderumors.com projected the outfielder would get $1.7M. He ended up being sent to Triple-A Rochester late in 2021, after he’d put up a .203/.310/.295 line, with 21 doubles, one triple, two home runs, 33 walks, and 85 strikeouts in 107 games and 369 plate appearances with the Nationals.
With the club’s top minor league affiliate, Robles put up a .301/.370/.566 line, eight doubles, a triple, and four home runs in 23 games and 93 PAs, but he didn’t get a call back up to the majors at the end of the year.
Robles’s manager, Davey Martinez, talked earlier this month about the outfielder battling for the center field job in West Palm Beach.
“I’m hoping that he comes to Spring Training ready to go,” Martinez said. “He understands his situation as well, that there’s no guarantees, he’s got to come out here and play and compete for a job, but I want him to be our center fielder, and he knows that, I’ve told him that, but we need him to get on base, we need him to play good defense every day, we need him to make smart baserunning decisions, so he understands that, so hopefully, like I said, when he comes in here, I’ll talk to him, and then I’ll get to put eyes on him and watch him play.”
Robles signed with the organization for $225K back in 2013, debuted in the majors in 2017, and played 13 games that season and 21 games in 2018, before putting up a .255/.326/.419 line, 33 doubles, 17 homers, 35 walks, and 140 Ks in 155 games and 617 plate appearances in the regular season and a .220/.273/.366 line, one double, one triple, a homer, two walks, and 15 Ks in 12 games and 45 PAs in the postseason for the 2019 World Series champions.
In the past two seasons, however, Robles has put up a combined .209/.304/.302 line with 26 doubles, two triples, five home runs, 42 walks, and 138 Ks in 159 games and 558 PAs, struggling with a bulked up physique in 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign, and down the stretch last year, Lane Thomas, acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals at the trade deadline, got a look out in center field and impressed as Robles went to Triple-A.
Asked late last season what the presence of one on the roster meant for the other, Rizzo said it meant competition for playing time in center field.
“Lane has been terrific for us,” he explained. “His skill set was as-advertised by our scouts when they scouted him.
“He’s got good pitch recognition at the plate, he’s got a good short swing, he puts the bat on the ball, he’s got surprising power, he’s got a good arm in the outfield, he runs well, and he’s a good outfielder, so that’s a good skill set for any ballclub, and as far as Victor goes, Victor is a terrific player with a great skill set himself, he’s a young player that we feel his best days are ahead of us, and what does Lane Thomas’s success mean for Robles, it’s just another good player on the roster.”
Now the Nats and Robles can continue to negotiate on his 2022 salary or go to arbitration with their outfielder next month.
ROUND 1 - ROSTER CUTS:
Before all the arbitration talk, the Nationals announced their first roster cuts of the spring: