Nats seek starting pitching, power heading into '23

December 6th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- The Nationals arrived for the 2022 Winter Meetings two weeks after non-tendering a starting pitcher and designated hitter/first baseman, and just one week after signing a potential starting third baseman and an outfielder.

But even after those early offseason moves, there still are several needs for the 2023 roster.

“It hasn’t changed,” general manager Mike Rizzo said Monday of the Nationals’ offseason agenda. “We think starting pitching is something we’re looking for. Possibly another offensive player would be great. We have added a couple of offensive players to the roster. We’re looking forward to seeing what [ and ] could do for us. We’re certainly not finished because of the two additions we’ve made, but we’re comfortable that those two guys should help us.”

On the first day of the annual gathering, here are three areas of the roster to be addressed.

Starting pitching
The Nationals' starting rotation is projected to include , , and . They have at least one spot to fill after non-tendering Erick Fedde. While the Nats could utilize a pitcher like Paolo Espino or Corey Abbott in a multipurpose role, they are prioritizing adding an arm that can pitch deep into games.

“Few seasons you go through a season with five starting pitchers,” Rizzo said. “You never have enough depth. You never have enough innings that need to be pitched. We’re always looking to upgrade. We’re not going to add something that’s not an improvement. But we are looking to upgrade the starting pitching, most prominently.”

Last season, Nationals starters posted a league-high ERA and the third-fewest innings pitched in the Major Leagues. With a young pitching staff, they have certain criteria they would like potential new starters to fill.

“If you’re making 30 starts, you’ve had a pretty successful season, I think,” Rizzo said. “Durability is a key issue, both with position players and in pitching. We want the best player that gives us the best impact. That could be logging the most innings, performing the best, track record, veteran presence … there’s a lot of things that go into the decision on who to target and who to go after.”

At this point, the Nationals are constructing their starting rotation without a timeframe for Stephen Strasburg’s return. Strasburg, who inked a record-setting deal the last time the Winter Meetings were held in person in 2019, has not begun throwing in his recovery from thoracic outlet surgery.

“I'm not going to put any more pressure on Strasburg,” said manager Dave Martinez. “I know he's rehabbing right now. He's progressing. When he's ready and we deem he's ready, it's going to be awesome to see him out on that mound. I promise the fans that when he does step on the mound, it will be at home. When he does that, we'll start him at home.”

Corner outfield
What is known going into 2023 is that is returning to center field and Martinez would like to remain at first base. The Nationals will have to determine who will man the corner outfield spots, and they have options on the 40-man roster in addition to exploring offseason moves.

impressed in right field in 2022, and Martinez has told him “to be ready to play everywhere.” will vie for playing time, and the newly signed Garrett will look to make an impact on the Nats.

“We liked his skill set,” Rizzo said of Garrett. “[Director of player development] De Jon [Watson] loved the makeup. He’s an optionable player that’s going to compete for at-bats at the big league level. We see a guy that has some power, that’s kind of refining his game. We’re going to allot him some time to improve his craft, either at the big league level or at the Minor League level.”

Designated hitter
The DH role is vacant without Nelson Cruz (whose mutual option the Nationals declined) and Luke Voit (whom they non-tendered) on the 2023 roster. Washington is looking to add power to its lineup, but it doesn’t necessarily have to come from a one-role player.

In addition to playing third and first base, Candelario can DH as the Nats anticipate a turnaround offensive season from him. Meneses also can fill the role on days he gets a game off from playing first base.

“We definitely would like to have one [DH], but I think we have enough moving parts,” said Martinez. “If we had to platoon two guys, we could do it. It would be nice to have a big bat in our lineup.”