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Washington Nationals & Victor Robles avoid arbitration, agree on 1-year deal for 2023...

Victor Robles and the Nationals will not be going to arbitration, which is probably a good thing...

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

Washington’s Nationals and outfielder Victor Robles have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a one-year deal for 2023 which the club announced on Monday afternoon, includes “... a club option for the 2024 season.”

The two sides submitted their salary figures for the new season earlier this winter, when they failed to agree on a deal before the “deadline” to agree on a deal last month.

Robles, who’ll turn 26 this May, reportedly asked for for $2.6M, while the Nationals offered him $2.3M for what will be his seventh major league season, with projecting a $2.5M salary for the center fielder in 2023.

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

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

They reportedly got it done earlier this time around.

According to an AP report yesterday, the team and Robles agreed on a, “... contract worth $2,325,000 as part of a deal that includes a club option for 2024.

“Robles would make $3.3 million in 2024 if the option is exercised. There is no buyout.”

Robles debuted in the majors as a 20-year-old in 2017, after getting a $225,000 signing bonus from the Nationals when he signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, and a couple years later, he was part of the World Series-winning roster in D.C., finishing up in 2019 with 33 doubles and 17 home runs in 155 games and 617 plate appearances, over which he put up a .255/.326/.419 line with 35 walks and 104 Ks in the regular season.

Robles finished up the 2022 campaign at .224/.273/.312, with six homers, 10 doubles, two triples, 17 walks, and 104 strikeouts in 407 plate appearances, over which he was worth +0.3 fWAR, with a .983 fld%, 4.8 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), 12 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), and a Gold Glove nomination in center (though he didn’t win the award).

Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo, who signed Robles, and oversaw his development, talked at the end of the ‘22 season about the outfielder being at a crossroads in his career after a third straight sub-par run from the talented defender, who has struggled at the plate since 2019, with a combined .216/.291/.306 line, 36 doubles, and 11 home runs in 291 games and 965 PAs in the last three years.

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

“You have to perform,” Rizzo said, noting Robles’s struggles at the plate, some issues with his defensive decisions at times, and gaffes on the basepaths at times over the past years.

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

“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.”

In an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last September, Rizzo talked to the show’s hosts about the origin of Robles’s issues, pointing to 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign as the start of the trouble.

“I think few players were affected as much as Victor was by the 2020 season, where he took a break because of the COVID, never got on track, and ‘20 turned into ‘21, and he just hasn’t found his footing as of yet,” Rizzo explained.

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

“But we still have hope for the kid. 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.”

Robles and the Nationals got an important step out of the way on Monday, and avoided an arbitration hearing which might have been uncomfortable for both sides.

Is Robles still the center fielder of the future for the rebooting ballclub, or a placeholder to get the organization to the next outfielder in center in D.C.?