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Predicting Nationals' 2020 Opening Day roster

@JamalCollier
November 5, 2019

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals just won their first World Series title, but it’s possible their roster might look a bit different come Opening Day next season. Washington had the oldest roster in the Majors, with a good chunk of free agents, so the defending champs will have some turnover. It’s

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals just won their first World Series title, but it’s possible their roster might look a bit different come Opening Day next season. Washington had the oldest roster in the Majors, with a good chunk of free agents, so the defending champs will have some turnover.

It’s far too early to accurately project how general manager Mike Rizzo will construct his roster, but below is some information on what it might look like. Beginning next year, teams will carry 26 players (a maximum of 13 pitchers) on their active roster throughout the season.

Here’s an early projection:

Catcher
Locks: Kurt Suzuki
Possibilities: Unclear

The Nationals declined their option on Yan Gomes for 2020, so they will need to find another catcher to split time with Suzuki, who turned 36 in October. Suzuki played 85 regular-season games in '19 and was about a league-average hitter, but he was a backstop who paired well with the Nats' rotation. Expect Washington to find a catcher to share the position with Suzuki in the same way Gomes did.

First base
Locks: None
Possibilities: Ryan Zimmerman

After declining their options on Zimmerman and Matt Adams, the Nationals do not have a first baseman on their roster. But Zimmerman seems almost certain to return in some capacity. At this stage in his career, Zimmerman, who has played more than 120 games once since 2014, shouldn’t be counted on as an everyday player. The Nats will need to find someone to complement him.

Second base
Locks: None
Possibilities: Carter Kieboom

Howie Kendrick and Brian Dozier are both free agents. Neither seems like a good fit to return, so the Nationals will have a vacancy here. Washington could explore the free-agent market or decide Kieboom, its top prospect per MLB Pipeline, is ready for a chance to play full-time in the big leagues.

Shortstop
Locks: Trea Turner
Possibilities: None

Once Turner returned from the injured list, the Nationals took off and turned their season around. Turner rarely needed a day off along the way, and he will play nearly every day at this position next year.

Third base
Locks: None
Possibilities: Anthony Rendon

The Nationals are expected to pursue Rendon in free agency, with the hopes of bringing back their superstar third baseman and National League MVP Award finalist. But it’s not guaranteed the two sides will reach an agreement. Third base is a pretty thin position within the organization, so if Washington cannot bring back Rendon, the search will likely involve free agents or trades.

Outfield
Locks: Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Adam Eaton
Possibilities: None

After picking up Eaton’s option for 2020, the Nationals seem almost certain to bring back their entire outfield, which was a strength of theirs last season. Soto and Robles combine to form one of the best young outfield duos in the Majors, and Eaton is a productive veteran.

Starting pitchers
Locks: Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, Aníbal Sánchez
Possibilities: Stephen Strasburg, Joe Ross, Austin Voth, Erick Fedde

Strasburg opted out of his contract to become a free agent, and his departure could leave a massive hole in the Nationals' rotation. The Nats are expected to pursue re-signing their World Series MVP to avoid a dent in what was their biggest strength in 2019. Young pitchers like Ross, Voth and Fedde all took a step forward this season, especially in the second half, which should make the team feel good about its rotation depth entering '20.

Relievers
Locks: Sean Doolittle, Tanner Rainey, Wander Suero
Possibilities: Everyone

The Nationals are going to need to build a competent bullpen after getting through 2019 with one of the worst relief corps for any postseason team in history. They have three relievers under contract who should form solid pieces in Doolittle (who has been an established closer) as well as Rainey and Suero (who showed glimpses of brilliance and should earn spots entering Spring Training). But this bullpen needs more reliable arms, and Rizzo will search all over to find them in trades and free agency, including betting on some bounce-backs players coming off down years.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.