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Washington Nationals news & notes: Victor Robles only arbitration-eligible player still unsigned....

News and notes as we wait for the start of Spring Training ... but really the 2023 regular season.

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Robles & Nationals Submit Figures:

Victor Robles finished the 2022 season, his sixth in the majors since the now-25-year-old debuted as a 20-year-old in 2017, at .224/.273/.312, with six home runs, 10 doubles, two triples, 17 walks, and 104 Ks in 407 plate appearances, over which he was worth +0.3 fWAR, with a .983 fld%, 4.8 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), which was up from -0.1 in 2021, and 12 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), which was up from 0 DRS in ‘21 and -4 in 2020.

Robles was a NL Gold Glove finalist in center field, though he didn’t win, and his at-times spectacular defense, GM Mike Rizzo told reporters at the end of the campaign this past October, makes up for a lot, but the mistakes in the field (over-throwing it at times, missing the cutoff man, bad routes and jumps on occasion, etc.), all of the baserunning gaffes, and his continued struggles at the plate, have to be improved upon at some point if he is to stay in center field in D.C.

“You have to perform,” Rizzo said, noting obvious areas for improvement in his outfielder’s game.

“It’s easier to forgive a baserunning mistake when you’re hitting .300 with 20 home runs.

“So he’s got to perform better. I think that all the tools and skills are still there to be a good productive big league player for us, and I think that what he brings to the table constantly is that he’s a terrific outfielder. He’s got a good arm, and he adds a speed component to our team. Talking to him, he realizes that he’s got to make some improvements, and some adjustments at the plate, and if gets back to near that 2019 player, it’s an All-Star caliber guy.”

That 2019 player hit 33 doubles and 17 home runs (over 155 games and 617 PAs), helping the club win the World Series in his first full season in the majors, which ended with Robles at .255/.326/.419 with 35 walks and 104 Ks on the year.

His manager, Davey Martinez, who’s had Robles on his team since joining the Nats in 2018, talked at the end of his fifth year on the bench about the center fielder needing to rein it in at times and play with controlled aggression.

“Vic is never going to back off, and that’s something that we’re trying to teach him the other way,” Martinez explained. “‘Hey, know the situations of the game. Know when you have to play deep. Know when you can come in on a ball. Know what you’re going to do when you get the ball as far as throwing to the right base.’ All that stuff.

“That’s something that next year when he comes back, he needs to be ready to do those kind of things, because as I always say, some of these games that we play that are close, it’s the little things that kind of bite us a little bit, so I want to make sure that next year we clean all that up.”

Despite his struggles in the last few years and with Robles still relatively young, the club has no intention of giving up on him but as Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this past season, he has to find a way to start barreling balls up again and hitting with the power he had on the way up and early in his big league career.

“We still have hope for the kid,” the GM told the Junkies. “He’s a [25]-year-old player that still has great skills and great tools, but we’ve got to find an answer offensively for him to put the barrel of the bat on the ball more consistently, and until we do that he’s going to struggle, but he’s still young enough and talented enough that it’s definitely worth the effort to try and fix and make him a part of the core group of players for us.”

Martinez told reporters at the Winter Meetings in early December Robles played winter ball back home in the Dominican Republic as he continues to work on things he needs to improve at the plate.

“Victor went and is playing winter ball,” Martinez said at the time. “He’s doing really well,” the manager added, though the results — 11 for 54 (.204/.295/.259), with a home run, three walks, and 14 strikeouts over 61 plate appearances — weren’t exactly eye-popping, “working on some of the things that [Hitting Coach] Darnell [Coles] wanted to work on, and I think Darnell is actually headed over there this coming week to go watch him play a little bit and talk to him.”

Robles wrapped up play in the DWL, and is in preparation mode for Spring Training now, and he and the team need to come to an agreement on his 2023 salary at some point before then if they are to avoid what could be an unpleasant arbitration hearing for both sides if they can’t.

For the second consecutive winter, Robles is the only arbitration-eligible National who failed to reach an agreement with the team before the deadline to submit salary figures this past weekend.

Last winter, Robles submitted a $2.1M figure, with the Nationals at $1.6M, and they avoided arbitration when the two sides settled on a 1-year/$1.65M deal for the 2022 season in early April.

This year it was reportedly Robles asking for $2.6M, while the Nationals offered him $2.3M, with projecting a $2.5M salary for the center fielder in 2023.

The Nationals agreed to deals with Hunter Harvey, Carl Edwards, Jr., Victor Arano, Kyle Finnegan, and Lane Thomas.

International Signing Period Update:

They also signed 14 international free agents, as the club announced on Sunday afternoon:

Here’s the rest of the information the Nationals provided in a press release on this year’s international signing class:

Welcome to the organization, Elian Soto:

Also this:

Some numbers: