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Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats new & old trying to help club take next step...

Notes and quotes on the Nationals’ mission in 2024...

Nick Senzel told reporters he saw some parallels between what he went through in Cincinnati over the last year, and what he signed on for in the nation’s capital when he agreed on a 1-year/$2M deal with the rebooting Washington Nationals after five seasons with the recently-rebuilding Reds (who’d drafted him 2nd overall in 2016 and for whom he debuted in 2018).

“Last year with Cincinnati,” Senzel said, “... obviously the time I was there, it was kind of an older crop of guys with a couple young guys coming in and then obviously with trades and stuff, brought in an overhaul of young talent and just with the youth you get excitement, you get that energy and I could definitely see playing the Nationals from the other side that they brought that. You could see they play with energy and excitement and I could just see the similarities. So it will be exciting, it should be an easy transition going to a group of a lot of younger guys and just try to mentor them and just try to match the energy level with them because that youth has so much energy and it’s great for a team and great for a clubhouse.”

Washington Nationals v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Jeff Dean/Getty Images

The 28-year-old infielder/outfielder (who is expected to play third for the Nats), had connections in D.C. as well; a close friendship with Lane Thomas since they were kids, and relationships with a number of current Nationals’ players and coaches.

“I actually came up through the system with the Reds with Tanner Rainey, so I know Tanner, I know his family, and then I know [Third Base Coach] Ricky Gutierrez, one of the coaches, those are the only two— and they just hired Miguel Cairo, I think he’s going to be the bench coach, so there’s a couple of old Reds over on the Washington side that I know and have a good relationship with.”

Combined with the opportunity to reunite with Thomas, Senzel said he saw an opportunity to play every day and help the franchise take a step forward towards playing competitive baseball again.

“Obviously, me and Lane, we grew up playing together,” he explained. “And this opportunity that was brought to me, an opportunity to be able to play every day, and get a new start in a historic franchise, was just kind of just kind of a no-brainer for me. And just having Lane, one of my best buddies I grew up with, playing right field, is just— it’s really insane, to be honest. We work out here at the University of Tennessee together and still can’t believe we’re going to be teammates.”

Dylan Floro, 33, got a 1-year/$2.25M free agent deal from the Nats, coming off a 2023 run which saw him struggle with the Marlins and Twins with a 4.76 ERA, 2.96 FIP, and a tough, .308/.363/.410 line against in 62 games and 56 2⁄3 IP.

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Looking for a new home this winter, Floro saw an opportunity in D.C. with a club he faced 19 times over the last few years as they Nationals have been rebooting.

“They have young talent,” Floro said. “The more experience the young talent gets, the better the team’s going to be at the end of the day. I’ve seen a lot of those guys the last three years, playing against them pretty much, and they’ve gotten better in my eyes every year. This year should be even better with more experience, and then they’re adding a couple guys here and there, and I think they’ll make a difference.”

Joey Gallo, 30, signed what is reportedly a 1-year/$5M with the Nats in late January, after a 2023 campaign which saw him put up a .177/.301/.440 line with nine doubles and 21 home runs in 111 games and 332 plate appearances for the Minnesota Twins. He hit one of the 21 home runs in an early-season series against the Nationals, and was impressed by what he saw from their club.

“I remember playing against them when they were in Minnesota, I remember it was like 20°, it was snowing most of the game, it was a tough series, but I appreciated the way that team, especially being a young team, kind of went out there and they played hard,” Gallo said.

Washington Nationals v Minnesota Twins Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

“Didn’t matter what the weather was, and whatnot, and just a very competitive team.”

“Playing against the Nationals, you can tell they play competitively, they play the game hard, that’s how I play,” he added.

His new team, he said, is close to taking the next step.

“When you look at the roster and just from playing against them a little bit last year, a lot of young, very athletic talent, and it’s always fun to be around guys like that,” Gallo said, “... so I’m just excited to kind of be around a young group of guys with energy [who] almost don’t really know what’s in front of them yet, and guys like that where they bring that energy every day in the clubhouse.”

Josiah Gray, 26, came to the Nationals in the 2021 deadline deal with Los Angeles’s Dodgers which kicked off Washington’s reboot, and he talked in a recent MLB Network Radio interview about the additions the club has made already this winter, and what he expects they’ll add to what the organization is building.

It started with a question about Gallo signing on with Washington.

Washington Nationals v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

“I was thinking about it the other day,” Gray told the show’s hosts, “and the first thing people think about is — [Gallo is] a veteran. He’s a guy that’s played in so many different teams and so many different situations, and he’s going to hit the long ball, and I think he’s going to fill that need for us, along with a veteran presence. I think we’re sorely going to miss Dom Smith, but hopefully Gallo can come in and take that veteran presence over with the position players. And then looking at Senzel and Dylan Floro as well, those are guys that have played on some really good teams. I was with Floro a little bit with the Dodgers — we’re familiar, I wouldn’t say we’re really good friends, but it’s just a guy that’s been doing it for a while, and if you can pick up some things on his sinker or changeup I think it will help a lot of the bullpen guys and starters even.”

Will the mix of veterans (bridging the gap till the next wave is ready), and the young talent on the Nationals’ roster improve on what the club did last season, picking up 16 wins over 2022’s total? Do wins matter this year, or is it just about development and seeing what they have so they can make the right additions before they expect to actually compete in the NL East again?