Nationals decline options on Eaton, Sánchez

October 28th, 2020

On the first day of the Major League Baseball offseason, the Nationals announced decisions impacting how they shape their 2021 roster.

The Nats declined their club options on right fielder Adam Eaton and right-hander Aníbal Sánchez on Wednesday. They also declined their portion of the 2021 mutual options for infielders/designated hitters Howie Kendrick and Eric Thames.

Washington still has to address its team option on utility man Brock Holt ($5 million).

Adam Eaton
Years with the Nationals: Four (2017-20)
Key stats: .279/.365/.419, 317 hits, 61 doubles, 26 homers and 204 runs

Eaton’s ninth Major League season ended early when he sustained a fractured left index finger on a bunt attempt on Sept. 16. Eaton expressed his appreciation for the Nationals organization shortly after his injury, and manager Dave Martinez described him as “one of the reasons why we did what we did last year.”

What could be next: Eaton, 31, emphasized his desire to play baseball next season, saying, “I think I have plenty of drive left. I think I have plenty of will to win. I want to play as long as they’ll let me play. … I still have a lot of fire in me.” Following Eaton’s injury, the Nationals shifted Juan Soto from left field to get a look at him in right. If they liked what they saw for the long-term, this move could create a rearranging of the outfield in 2021.

Aníbal Sánchez
Years with the Nationals: Two (2019-20)
Key stats: 15-13, 4.52 ERA, 219 innings and 1.365 WHIP

Sánchez struggled to find his rhythm this year. He pitched to a 4-5 record, a career-high 6.62 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP over 11 starts. Sánchez, 36, didn’t earn his first win until Aug. 23 of his 15th season.

What could be next: The Nationals have to address two spots in their starting rotation -- the No. 4 spot held by Sánchez as well as the No. 5 spot held by Austin Voth, who also faced challenges on the mound. Sánchez said he would like to return to Washington, but the Nats could explore options within their own system -- Minor League or bullpen -- and the free-agency/trade market to add a new arm to their rotation in 2021.

Howie Kendrick
Years with the Nationals: Four (2017-20)
Key stats: .316/.361/.511, 234 hits, 30 home runs, 113 RBIs, 113 runs and an .873 OPS

Kendrick is the most intriguing of the group because he is contemplating not only where he will play next season, but if he will play next season. The 37-year-old would be entering his 16th Major League season, and he was candid about his uncertainty of his career. Kendrick had planned for 2020 to be his final season before the pandemic changed his perspective.

“I’ve thought about it, but I haven’t really come up with anything,” Kendrick, 37, said in September. “I love baseball, I love the game. That’s one of the toughest decisions you’re ever going to make. Being around these guys and playing here in D.C., it’s really been a dream come true.”

What could be next: Kendrick planned to return home to rehab from a lingering left hamstring injury, get healthy and then assess his options with his family. He is a veteran leader who could be a fit in any clubhouse, and he has the postseason resume to be appealing to a championship contender. The Nationals have holes to fill at first base with Asdrúbal Cabrera and Ryan Zimmerman also entering free agency.

Eric Thames
Years with the Nationals: One (2020)
Key stats: .203/.300/.317, 25 hits, three home runs, 12 RBIs and a .617 OPS

The offseason signing of Thames gave the Nationals extra coverage at first base when Zimmerman elected not to play and Kendrick battled injuries. He manned first in 27 games, and he also filled the designated hitter spot in 12 games.

What could be next: Like Kendrick, Thames’ role on any team could be impacted by the universal designated hitter rule, which was implemented this season. The Nats have a glaring hole at first base, but they could pursue a bigger bat at that position to boost the offense.