Free agent targets for Nats fans to watch during 2020 playoffs originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The 2020 MLB playoffs are underway and the 16-team, best-of-three Wild Card round has already proven to make upsets and surprise performances possible.
Unfortunately for Nationals fans, they aren’t watching their team make a push for a second-straight World Series title after Washington missed the playoffs for the second time in three years. However, there is still plenty of baseball for Nationals fans to watch, whether they’re willing to adopt a second team or looking out for potential offseason signees the team may pick up.
Here are 10 players that Nationals fans might want to keep an eye on throughout this postseason, as they could end up in D.C. by 2021.
5 realistic free agent targets to watch
OF George Springer, 31 (HOU)
2019-20 stats: 173 games, .284/.376/.576, .953 OPS, 53 homers, 128 RBIs, 26 doubles, 5 triples, 133 runs scored, 7 stolen bases, 91 walks and 151 strikeouts
Alongside Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto, Springer is probably one of the top free agents that the Nationals will be looking at this winter. The Astros are on to the ALDS after sweeping the Twins in their Wild Card matchup, so there will at least be three more opportunities to watch Springer this October.
OF Michael Brantley, 33 (HOU)
2019-20 stats: 194 games, .309/.370/.497, .867 OPS, 27 homers, 112 RBIs, 55 doubles, 2 triples, 112 runs scored, 5 stolen bases, 68 walks, 94 strikeouts
Speaking of the Astros, they have another corner outfielder hitting free agency this offseason in Brantley. The veteran left-handed hitter will likely be cheaper than his Houston teammate and could prove to be a valuable consolation prize for whichever team finishes second in the Springer sweepstakes.
OF Marcell Ozuna, 29 (ATL)
2019-20 stats: 190 games, .272/.362/.525, .886 OPS, 47 homers, 145 RBIs, 37 doubles, 1 triple, 118 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, 100 walks and 174 strikeouts
The Braves held on in extra innings to beat the Reds in their playoff opener Wednesday, putting them one win away from advancing to the NLDS. Ozuna was brought in to replace Josh Donaldson in the lineup and he’s performed marvelously, leading the NL in home runs, RBIs and total bases this season.
C James McCann, 30 (CHW)
2019-20 stats: 149 games, .276/.334/.474, .808 OPS, 25 homers, 75 RBIs, 29 doubles, 1 triple, 82 runs scored, 5 stolen bases, 38 walks, 167 strikeouts
He’s not the starter on his own team, but McCann was an All-Star in 2019 who’s continued to hit well at the plate on days Yasmani Grandal sat, he hit in the DH spot or played first base. If the Nationals miss out on Realmuto, he would be an intriguing option to pair with Yan Gomes. The White Sox lost to the Athletics on Wednesday to tie their Wild Card series up at 1-1 with a decisive Game 3 on Thursday.
RP Jeremy Jeffress, 33 (CHC)
2019-20 stats: 70 appearances, 75 1/3 innings, 3.94 ERA (4.00 FIP), 9 saves, 15 holds, 1.235 WHIP, 63 strikeouts (7.5 K/9), 29 walks (3.5 BB/9), 6 homers (0.7 BB/9)
The Nationals may be in the market for some late-inning relief help this offseason if Sean Doolittle signs elsewhere in free agency. While they might not have a ton of money to spend in that department, the Nationals could look at Jeffress, who was a godsend for the Cubs while Craig Kimbrel figured himself out. Chicago trails the Marlins 1-0 in their Wild Card series with Game 2 on Thursday.
5 unrealistic free agent targets to watch
INF DJ LeMahieu, 32 (NYY)
2019-20 stats: 195 games, .336/.386/.536, .922 OPS, 36 homers, 129 RBIs, 43 doubles, 4 triples, 150 runs scored, 8 stolen bases, 64 walks, 111 strikeouts
LeMahieu will hit free agency looking to score big as the top infielder available on the market. The Nationals have a muddled infield picture that probably exempts them from spending big on a utility player, though they were rumored to be interested in him last time he was a free agent. The Yankees are up 1-0 on the Indians in their Wild Card round as of time of publish.
3B Justin Turner, 35 (LAD)
2019-20 stats: 177 games, .294/.378/.498, .876 OPS, 31 homers, 90 RBIs, 33 doubles, 1 triple, 106 runs scored, 3 stolen bases, 69 walks, 114 strikeouts
Turner doesn’t fit in the Nationals’ long-term plans at third base given the presences of Carter Kieboom and Luis García, but they could see a role for him at first base depending on how they proceed with Ryan Zimmerman. Turner and the Dodgers open up their Wild Card round against the Brewers on Wednesday night.
SP Trevor Bauer, 29 (CIN)
2019-20 stats: 45 starts, 286 innings, 3.78 ERA (3.96 FIP), 16-17 record, 1.133 WHIP, 353 strikeouts (11.1 K/9), 99 walks (3.1 BB/9), 43 homers (1.4 HR/9)
On the short list of NL Cy Young candidates for this season, Bauer will hit free agency as the top pitcher available. The Nationals are a team that typically jumps at premiere free agent starters, but they already have enough salary tied up in Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin that a deal for Bauer is unlikely. The Reds are down 1-0 in their series against the Braves after Bauer pitched a gem in Game 1.
SP Masahiro Tanaka, 31 (NYY)
2019-20 stats: 42 appearances (41 starts), 230 innings, 4.27 ERA (4.30 FIP), 14-12 record, 1.226 WHIP, 193 strikeouts (7.6 K/9), 48 walks (1.9 BB/9), 37 homers (1.4 HR/9)
Tanaka, like Bauer, might be out of the Nationals’ price range this winter, but the notorious playoff pitcher gets the ball for the Yankees on Wednesday night against the Indians. Who knows, if his price drops this winter then the Nationals could swoop in and make him their fourth starter.
CL Liam Hendriks, 31 (OAK)
2019-20 stats: 99 appearances, 110 1/3 innings, 1.79 ERA (1.70 FIP), 39 saves, 8 holds, 0.897 WHIP, 161 strikeouts (13.1 K/9), 24 walks (2.0 BB/9), 6 homers (0.5 HR/9)
Doolittle’s potential departure could make Hendriks a fit in Washington, though he’s right-handed and likely to be an expensive option after pitching like one of the best relievers in baseball over the last two seasons. The A’s and White Sox are knotted up 1-1 in their Wild Card matchup.