The 2020 season was a year to forget for the Washington Nationals. The team went from winning the World Series in 2019 to finishing below .500 a season later.
The Nationals made a few moves on the free agent market in hopes of getting back in the playoffs. The Nats will be contending with an Atlanta Braves team favored to win the NL East and a New York Mets club that has been retooling this offseason. But the MLB free agency moves the Nats made this offseason show how committed the team is to contending.
February 28 cannot come soon enough.#NATITUDE // https://t.co/3Ml6O5fBNe pic.twitter.com/QhMwTs5eRc
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) February 12, 2021
The Nationals signed Jon Lester from the Chicago Cubs to the team’s rotation. Lester went 3-3 with a 5.16 ERA last season. He will be fourth in the rotation behind Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin.
Lester joins on a one-year contract, so he might be a placeholder before highly-touted prospect Jackson Rutledge makes his way to the rotation.
The team also signed Brad Hand as their new closer. Hand was one of the best closers in the league last season, as he threw sixteen saves with a 2.05 ERA for the Cleveland Indians. Reliever Luis Avilan joins as a non-roster invitee for spring training. He had a 4.32 ERA with the New York Yankees last season.
The Nationals look like they are ready to move on from longtime first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, but they aren’t leaving him behind yet. The team acquired Josh Bell from the Pittsburgh Pirates through a trade, but Zimmerman will still be the backup this season.
He resigned with the Nationals for one year. Zimmerman has been with the Nationals since 2005 and is the last remaining member of the inaugural Nationals team from that season.
The team acquired Kyle Schwarber from the Chicago Cubs to fill in a position in the outfield. Schwarber had a rough season last year, as he went .188 with eleven home runs.
The Nationals also acquired catcher Alex Avila from the Minnesota Twins. He will likely compete with Yan Gomes for the starting position, although prospect Tres Barrera could contend for that spot during spring training.
The Nationals also brought in outfielder Gerardo Parra on a spring training contract. The fan favorite played for the Nationals in 2019, and he moved on to the NPB’s Yomiuri Giants last season.
The club may also see shortstop Luis Garcia make it to the team this season. Garcia will likely start the season with the AAA Rochester Red Wings.
Departures of Value
Kyle Schwarber’s arrival in the District of Columbia comes at a good time for the Nationals, as outfielder Michael A. Taylor left this offseason for the Kansas City Royals. Fellow outfielder Adam Eaton moved on to the Chicago White Sox. Catcher Kurt Suzuki also left for the Los Angeles Angels.
Will the Team Rebound?
The work that the Washington Nationals put in this offseason shows that the team is aiming to rebound from a poor 2020 season. The Nationals will give it their all in 2021, as the team brought in some new pieces to help them be more competitive.
Expect them to go after Atlanta and the New York Mets and the rest of the NL East, but don’t be surprised if they go a little further in the playoffs this season. Whatever happens, the Nationals aren’t going to struggle like they did this past year.
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