When was last time Nationals needed so many free agents? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Where to start? First base? Third base? The rotation? Bullpen? Catcher?
The Nationals are full of positions which need tending to. Not by bit players, either. They need a fresh batch of starter-level players to lengthen their lineup, aid their pitching and recover their standing as a contender in the National League.
A year ago, after they pulled off Game 7 in Houston, the Nationals had to pivot to what was next with their roster. They had 12 pending free agents. Two of them were huge influences and names: Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon. Two of them played regularly: Daniel Hudson and Howie Kendrick. The remaining eight -- Matt Adams, Greg Holland, Brian Dozier, etc. -- were depth parts.
The Nationals have up to 16 free agents departing this offseason if they decline the options on Eric Thames, Howie Kendrick, Adam Eaton and Aníbal Sánchez. Of those, five were regulars this year (Eaton, Sánchez, Asdrúbal Cabrera, Sean Doolittle and Kurt Suzuki). Ryan Zimmerman would have been a regular, too, if he chose to play in 2020. Kendrick was supposed to be, but he played just 25 of the 60 games.
So, they don’t have the titanic names leaving. But, they do have several multi-year starters/key pitching pieces ready to move on.
They didn’t go through this much transition after the 82-80 outcome in the 2018 season. Of the eight hitters in the 2019 Opening Day lineup, six were on the team in 2018. Of the eight hitters expected to start Opening Day in 2021, five (Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Yan Gomes, Starlin Castro and Trea Turner) are holdovers. The fourth and fifth starters will likely be different. The bench, already shifting via the signing of Josh Harrison, will be remade.
Here’s another way to look at it: of the 30 members to be part of the 2020 Opening Day expanded roster, up to 17 of them will not be on the 26-man Opening Day roster in 2021. Here is that 2020 roster with likely departures -- either to free agency or the minor leagues -- in bold:
Pitchers: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Aníbal Sánchez, Austin Voth, Erick Fedde, Sean Doolittle, Will Harris, Daniel Hudson, Tanner Rainey, James Bourque, Kyle Finnegan, Ryne Harper, Sam Freeman, Javy GuerraCatchers: Yan Gomes, Kurt Suzuki, Raudy ReadInfielders: Howie Kendrick, Eric Thames, Starlin Castro, Trea Turner, Asdrúbal Cabrera, Carter Kieboom, Wilmer DifoOutfielders: Adam Eaton, Victor Robles, Michael A. Taylor, Andrew Stevenson, Emilio BonifacioThere are two outliers there, of course: Soto was not part of the Opening Day group because he had to enter quarantine. However, Stevenson took his place, so the numbers hold the same. Wander Suero was also in quarantine. He otherwise would have been part of the opening 30 players.
Overall, the situation is clear: The Nationals have widespread roster adjustments coming when free agency starts at 9 a.m. after the World Series ends.