If there was any downside to how November 2019 unfolded for the Nationals, it’s that the organization is left with the shortest offseason in its history. That means less time for pitchers’ arms to recover, fewer occasions for golf and family and a limited opportunity to bask in the World
If there was any downside to how November 2019 unfolded for the Nationals, it’s that the organization is left with the shortest offseason in its history. That means less time for pitchers’ arms to recover, fewer occasions for golf and family and a limited opportunity to bask in the World Series championship before it starts all over again.
Even so, the championship rings awaiting the Nats in 2020 make any of those worries dissolve pretty quickly.
So now with a focus on defending a title, here are the logistics you need to know:
What are the important dates?
• Feb. 12: Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in West Palm Beach, Fla.
• Feb. 22: First Spring Training game against the … Astros
• March 26: Opening Day against the Mets in Queens
• April 2: Home opener (and presumed World Series banner-raising) vs. Mets
What do I need to know about Spring Training?
Pitchers and catchers will report on Feb. 12, position players on Feb. 17 and the first full-squad workout ahead of a World Series title defense will take place a day later. After that, the Nationals and Astros will waste no time getting reacquainted with one another.
• Full Spring Training schedule
The two organizations share FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Fla. They open each other’s respective spring slates on Feb. 22, then they’ll face off again the next day in a split-squad scrimmage and four more times before the start of the 2020 season.
Washington will wrap up its Spring Training schedule on March 22 against the Cardinals.
What are three questions still facing the Nationals?
1. Who will round out the infield?
Josh Donaldson has dominated the conversation around replacing Anthony Rendon at third base, but now that the former MVP Award winner has chosen to sign with the Twins, a source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, Plan B will be kicked into effect.
And there are many options Washington can turn to, whether it be via trade, through its offseason signings -- Asdrúbal Cabrera and Starlin Castro have both agreed to deals -- or testing Carter Kieboom, the Nationals’ top prospect per MLB Pipeline, at the hot corner. Though those options may not pack the offensive punch of a Rendon or Donaldson, the Nationals kept themselves prepared for several eventualities.
Past third base, the Nationals have laid the groundwork for the rest of their infield. Joining Howie Kendrick on the right side are Cabrera, Castro and first baseman Eric Thames, who also agreed to a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2021. Rizzo said he is keeping up with Ryan Zimmerman, a potential platoon mate with Thames.
2. What about the bullpen?
The Nationals made a few big-time moves, agreeing with Will Harris on a three-year deal and later bringing back postseason savior Daniel Hudson for two years. The back-end trio of Sean Doolittle-Harris-Hudson is much more lethal than the options were a year ago.
Otherwise, the fifth rotation spot may provide answers: Ross, Austin Voth and Erick Fedde are all in contention. Whichever two arms fall short then become candidates to slot into bullpen roles. And now that the Nationals missed out on Donaldson, they could use that money for a few more upgrades, too.
3. How long may the World Series hangover linger?
At Stephen Strasburg’s re-introductory press conference, Max Scherzer said that after “a really nice hangover,” he’s kicking his offseason regime into full gear. Scherzer will be one of the first Nats down in Florida when he arrives around New Year’s. As of now, Finnegan is the lone new face who has zero hangover to get over, but the team remains confident that Dave Martinez and the coaching staff will be able to light a fire starting in Florida.
So it remains to be seen. Even the Giants’ dynasty of the 2010s had to take a year off between titles. But if you’re going to compare it to last season, where there was no hangover, then the Nats have a 19-31 cushion to play with entering ‘20.
Zachary Silver is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Baltimore/Washington. Follow him on Twitter @zachsilver.