WASHINGTON -- It's been a while since the Nationals entered Spring Training with a roster featuring so many new faces. Washington added seven new players this winter, nearly one-third of the roster, as part of an aggressive overhaul to help the club return to the top of the National League
WASHINGTON -- It's been a while since the Nationals entered Spring Training with a roster featuring so many new faces. Washington added seven new players this winter, nearly one-third of the roster, as part of an aggressive overhaul to help the club return to the top of the National League East.
A disappointing 2018 season where they watched the postseason from home did not sit well with general manager Mike Rizzo, who spent the offseason reshaping this roster in hopes of turning it back into a winner.
Among those new additions who will arrive to Nationals camp next week, none may be more exciting or offer more potential than Patrick Corbin, the best free-agent starter available this winter. He is coming off a career year in Arizona -- 33 starts for a 3.15 ERA and 246 strikeouts in 200 innings, earning him a spot on the NL All-Star team and a fifth-place finish in the voting for the NL Cy Young Award.
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It's fair to wonder if the six-year, $140 million contract the Nationals signed Corbin to was a bit of an overpay, but it will be well worth it if the left-hander can form a dominant trio with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. They could form the best top of the rotation in club history.
Even though starting pitchers are throwing fewer innings than ever and teams are relying more heavily on bullpens, the Nats see the value in having starters they are comfortable extending a third and sometimes fourth turn through the batting order. So, they targeted Corbin, 29, from the start of free agency and landed their prize. Now each sharp slider he spins this spring might make those around the Nationals begin to picture a postseason rotation featuring those three aces.
But the Nats did not stop with adding Corbin.
• Nats feel competitive entering Spring Training
They followed it up by signing Aníbal Sánchez, who is coming off a career year, to add to their rotation. Brian Dozier was brought in to play second base. Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki will provide a much needed upgrade behind the plate. Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough will be counted on to aid the bullpen.
Yes, the franchise stalwarts such as Ryan Zimmerman and Strasburg will still be present along with the familiar faces in recent years like Scherzer and Anthony Rendon and the young stars like Juan Soto and Trea Turner, but how well the new pieces blend in will likely determine how successful the Nationals are in 2019.
The additions touch nearly every area of the roster, from behind the plate to the rotation and bullpen and the infield. And the outfield will have its own new look not because of an addition, but because of a notable absence -- at least for now.
The Nationals are preparing to begin Spring Training without Bryce Harper for the first time in seven seasons. The potential for a reunion still exists, and as long as Harper lingers on the open market, Washington will remain a threat. However, this roster was built to be a winner even if Harper eventually signs elsewhere, and the Nats are confident their new additions will help.
Gomes and Suzuki will share duties behind the plate and should give the Nats one of the best catching tandems in the league. Sanchez has a chance to provide an upgrade to the rotation if he can replicate his resurgent 2018. Dozier, who battled a knee injury last season, is an excellent rebound candidate. Rosenthal should be healthy more than a year after Tommy John surgery, and the Nats see a few tweaks that can help Barraclough return to form.
And Corbin will be the centerpiece of it all. The Nats have handed him the largest contract in baseball so far this offseason because they believe with him in their rotation they have a chance at a pitching edge at least every four, if not five days. If he can continue to build off his breakout 2018, this team's potential could soar with him.
After a busy offseason in D.C., the Nationals are now ready to see how all their new additions fit.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.