How will Nats address these questions in new year?

December 27th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Jessica Camerato's Nationals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

As we reach the end of the year, Spring Training is right around the corner. It won’t be long before the Nationals are back in action in Florida preparing for the 2023 season.  
There still are questions to be answered -- some before the team heads to West Palm Beach and others once camp is underway. Let’s take a look at three of these question marks:

1. Who will start at third base? 
The starting third-base role will be determined in Spring Training once again. Said general manager Mike Rizzo at the Winter Meetings, “The best player will play third, and we’ll make other arrangements for the other players.”  
Veteran , who signed a one-year contract in November, is the most experienced candidate. Candelario, 29, has logged 4,427 1/3 innings at the position over his seven-year career, including 112 starts this past season with the Tigers. Candelario expressed interest in the everyday starting job as he eyes a bounceback year.

also will contend for the starting role as he has done in previous camps. Kieboom, 25, missed all of last season because of Tommy John surgery, and he is expected to be ready for Spring Training. He played 763 frames at third base for the Nationals from 2020-21.  
There are scenarios in which Candelario and Kieboom could both be in the starting lineup. Candelario has the versatility to play first base, and he could be an option to DH as needed.

2. Will the Nationals add more starting pitching?
Bolstering starting pitching was atop the Nationals’ offseason to-do list. They signed Trevor Williams to join the rotation on a two-year deal, adding a fifth starter to the returning group of , , and
There are, however, still questions to be answered within the starting staff, one that posted the highest ERA in the Majors (5.97) in 2022. Corbin struggled again last season, and Cavalli and Gore were limited in their first Major League seasons because of injuries. The Nationals will need their starters to stay on the mound deeper into games to avoid taxing the bullpen. 

Rizzo noted in San Diego, “Few seasons you go through a season with five starting pitchers. You never have enough depth. You never have enough innings that need to be pitched. We’re always looking to upgrade.”

3. Will the Nationals acquire another lefty bat?
In addition to starting pitching, manager Dave Martinez said at the Winter Meetings that the Nationals’ areas of need included “probably adding another left-handed bat.”

Free-agent signing Candelario is a switch-hitter who has batted .270 righty vs. .230 lefty over his career. Washington also signed veteran left-handed hitter Matt Adams to a Minor League contract, and he will have an opportunity to make the team during Spring Training.

The Nationals could continue exploring their options to enhance their offense. Check out this up-to-date tracker of available batters in the free-agent market.