After seven remarkable seasons with the Nationals, Anthony Rendon has taken his talents to Los Angeles to play for the Angels. His deal is worth $245 million over seven years, the same as Stephen Strasburg’s Nats contract. This loss will certainly hurt the team, and there’s no way to make up for his production. The Nats will need to make a great deal of moves to stay competitive despite losing Rendon and defend their World Series title come next October.
This loss leaves a gaping hole at the third base position. The players who could play the position include Wilmer Difo, Carter Kieboom, and Adrian Sanchez — none of whom are adequate replacements. There have been some rumors that the Cubs and the Nats have been in trade talks regarding former MVP Kris Bryant. Though it sounds enticing, what we would have to give up for him would not be worth the two years of him playing with the club. The better decision for the team would be signing former Blue Jay and Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson.
He is the only remaining above-average free-agent third baseman with both Rendon and Mike Moustakas having already been signed. Donaldson is a former MVP and posted a .259 average with 34 home runs and 94 RBI in 2019. This also comes with a WAR of 6.1 and 14 defensive runs saved. Though he doesn’t play on the same level as Rendon, he still finished 11th in MVP voting last season and can be a very solid cleanup hitter in a weak lineup.
Re-Sign Daniel Hudson and Bolster the Bullpen
One constant for the Nats over the years has been a need for relief pitching. The bullpen ranked last in ERA at 5.66 in the MLB and third to last in opponent batting average at .266. One of the few reliable bullpen pitchers on the team is Daniel Hudson. After acquiring him at the trade deadline for the Blue Jays, Hudson posted a 1.44 ERA in 25 innings for the team without a single loss. He was arguably one of the best relievers in the second half of the season. Without having to pay Rendon, the team needs to spend some money on the bullpen. The first step is re-signing Hudson.
Along with Hudson, the team desperately needs another lefty reliever. Tanner Rainey and Hudson would give us two solid righties, but Sean Doolittle is our only good southpaw. We can’t have our closer as our only good left-handed reliever, so a move in free agency can give us that last piece to round off the pen.
Possible Candidates: Ryan Buchter, Francisco Liriano, Robbie Erlin
Find One More 1B/2B
One characteristic of last year’s team was its high-quality platoon on the right side of the infield. We had three players who could play second base and four who could play first, which allowed Davey Martinez to shuffle through multiple veterans that matchup better against certain teams or pitchers. With only Ryan Zimmerman and Howie Kendrick as serviceable first and second basemen, the team needs to find additions to that part of the team. It’s unlikely we bring back Brian Dozier, as he fits more into the everyday role. But we should definitely think about resigning Asdrubal Cabrera, who was a high-quality player and playoff starter for most of the Nats season playing both first and second base. Adding him would give us the exact player we need at the position.
Possible Candidates: Asdrubal Cabrera, Brock Holt, Scooter Gennett
Since we can also groom Kieboom as the starting second baseman next year, the team only needs one more first baseman. This player would likely replace Matt Adams, as he is unlikely to return to the team. This means we could greatly use a lefty power guy that can give Zimmerman rest days and maybe take the starting spot.
Moreland gives us the perfect replacement for Adams at the position, but we don’t know if he would want to come to the National League.
Adams is a safer option who already has experience with the team but is likely to keep regressing in talent. This outcome would probably happen if we don’t sign another of these first basemen.
Though Cron is not a lefty, he may be the most talented of the remaining unsigned free agents. He saw a lot of success as a power hitter in Minnesota, but he may cost more than the previously mentioned players.
Possible Candidates: Mitch Moreland, Matt Adams, CJ.Cron