The 2021 Washington Nationals’ season comes a step closer with pitchers and catchers reporting this week. Leaving the off-season behind, MLB front offices now have to face the start of a brand new year with their 40 man rosters. Speaking of which, the 2019 champion Nationals made a hefty amount of deals coming off the 2020 season.
Taking a look inside the off-season, Washington made some brilliant moves at first glance, and deals that are yet to be determined. The 2021 Washington Nationals roster needed a fifth starter as one of their top priorities, while also some outfield assistance. These needs were met to some degree as the Nationals cracked down on their roster.
2021 Washington Nationals: The Starting Rotation
With established stars atop the rotation in Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, the Nats were looking for some back end help. Patrick Corbin, former all star starter, is coming off a down year in the shortened 2020 season. However, the talent in his age 30 season is still there and the Nationals hope it resurfaces this season.
Now we’re getting to the rear, one of Washington’s question marks was the finalization of the rotation. The Nats, in turn, signed veteran southpaw Jon Lester. The three-time World Series champion is now under a one-year contract to pitch in the starting rotation, as the projected fourth starter. This move holds a recurring theme to the National’s off-season. And that theme is, bounce-back candidates. Lester is 37 years old, through 12 games last season only amassed three wins and carried a plus 5 ERA.
Some of Lester’s best years came when moving to another team. Perhaps this is a similar situation. Lester seemed motivated to “bringing another ring to DC” in the new 2021 season. And, at least you can’t fault the Nationals for trying and knowing exactly where to get help. The veteran rotation has its risks and rewards in the past, making this grade a B until further review.
The Fifth Starter
The Nats now have a couple of options when pointing to the 5th starter. They could give Austin Voth, who struggled in his first season in the full-time role or could go to Joe Ross. Ross elected not to play last season and his numbers could use some improvement as well. While help was acquired in Lester, the 5th starter remains a question mark.
2021 Washington Nationals: First Base
First base for the Washington Nationals can’t be mentioned without listing Ryan Zimmerman, who is set to enter his 16th season in DC. The veteran corner is known for his power and has been a longtime cornerstone for this franchise.
Pairing with Zimmerman will be the always dangerous at the plate, Josh Bell. Brought via a trade with the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates, Bell is gearing up for the Nationals to coexist with Ryan at first. This was a need that certainly took the league by storm, and a smart one at that.
While Zimmerman can hold down the corner for a short-term deal, like the one-year he signed with the Nats, Washington will need a long-term option. They got that guy in Josh Bell, who despite his struggles last season, is a threat at the plate and a smart move with his two-year contract. The grade for him will be an A.
2021 Washington Nationals: The Outfield
After declining the club option for Adam Eaton, the Nationals are now in need of an outfielder. Kyle Schwarber, non-tendered by the Cubs this off-season, is now going to play left field for the Nats. This move will move Juan Soto to right field, a power filled position in the league.
Another bounce-back candidate for the Nationals this year is Schwarber. The power-hitting outfielder can at times be lackluster at the plate. That statement however is a common theme among power hitter. His best season to date was in 2019, where he held a .250/38/92 stat line. These numbers have varied throughout his time in the league, however, there could have been worse options for the vacant spot. The grade for Schwarber is a heavy B, with potential.
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