Offseason checklist: Nats' needs and moves

February 3rd, 2021

One year removed from their first World Series championship, the Nationals are looking to build a roster this offseason to return to contention. Washington finished the 2020 season at 26-34, and did not make the playoffs to defend its title.

While the majority of the club from 2019 returned in '20, the roster could look very different following this offseason. There are several areas for the team to address over the winter, and new faces from outside the organization are being added to fill those roles.


Finalizing the starting rotation
The Nationals added veteran southpaw to the starting rotation with , and fellow left-hander . That leaves the question of the No. 5 starter, after struggled in his first season in the full-time role. is an option to earn the spot -- he was a top candidate in 2020 before electing not to play last season.


The Nationals needed someone to pair with veteran after Kurt Suzuki signed with the Angels. They agreed to a one-year deal with veteran backup . Avila brings familiarity to the starting rotation -- he previously was teammates with Scherzer (Tigers), Lester (Cubs) and Corbin (D-backs). Manager Dave Martinez told Gomes to “prepare to catch 100, 110 games.”

First base
The Nats made a splash to address their first-base need by trading for on Christmas Eve. Bell, a 2019 All-Star with 37 homers and a .936 OPS, is coming off a rough shortened '20 season, posting a .226/.305/.364 slash line in 57 games. But just 28, he is under contact through the next two seasons. To pair with Bell, the Nats re-signed franchise cornerstone to a one-year deal for his 16th season in D.C. Zimmerman, 36, sat out the 2020 season but projects to start against left-handed pitching.

In need of a corner outfielder after declining their club option on Adam Eaton, the Nationals signed free agent , who had been non-tendered by the Cubs, to play left field. will shift to right field, where he played in the Minors and for six games at the end of the 2020 season. , who participated in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, rounds out the trio in center field. is a candidate for the fourth outfielder role, which had been held by Michael A. Taylor. The left-handed-hitting Stevenson ended the season with a 12-game hitting streak.


Feb. 3: Signed catcher Alex Avila

In need of a backup catcher to share the role with Gomes, the Nationals officially announced their one-year contract with Avila. During the free-agent process, Avila considered a reunion with the Tigers to work with his father, general manager Al Avila. But the chance to win his first World Series ring with the Nationals was a top priority.  

Jan. 27: Agreed to deal with starting left-hander Jon Lester
The Nationals signed the five-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion to a one-year deal to pitch in their starting rotation. Lester, 37, said his goal in his 15th Major League season was to “bring another ring to D.C.”

Jan. 26: Agreed to deal with reliever Brad Hand
Top free-agent reliever Hand joined the Nationals on a one-year deal. He will join the back end of the bullpen with Will Harris, Daniel Hudson and Tanner Rainey, and Hand is an option for the closer role.

Jan. 23: Brought back Zimmerman on a one-year deal
Zimmerman has called only one ballcub home in his Major League career, and that's not going to change in 2021. The first Draft pick in Nationals history will play his 16th season for the club after the sides agreed to a one-year deal. Zimmerman projects to start against primarily left-handed pitching.

Jan. 9: Agreed to deal with free agent Kyle Schwarber
The Nationals filled their corner outfield vacancy by landing the left fielder with a one-year deal worth $10 million. Schwarber is looking for a bounce-back season. He batted .188 in 2020 after belting a team-high 38 homers in ’19.

Dec: 24: Acquired Josh Bell from the Pirates
The Nationals completed one of the bigger trades this offseason when they acquired Bell, a 2019 All-Star for the Pirates, on Christmas Eve to have him man first base in 2021. Bell is coming off a down 2020 but is under contract through '22. The Nationals sent right-handed prospects Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean to Pittsburgh.

Dec. 7: Claimed off waivers from the D-backs
The right-hander Armenteros made his Major League debut in 2019 and appeared in five games (two starts) for the Astros. He did not pitch in ‘20 because of right elbow surgery.

Dec. 2: Tendered contracts to Juan Soto, Trea Turner
As expected, the Nationals tendered contracts to team centerpieces Soto and Turner. Per the Cot's Baseball Contracts site, Soto is estimated to earn about $5 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility, while Turner’s third-year arbitration salary is estimated at about $11 million.

Dec. 1: Agreed to deal with Joe Ross
The Nationals agreed to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million with right-hander Ross, who had emerged as a top candidate for the fifth starter spot in 2020. He elected not to play last season.

Nov. 20: Selected contracts of Yasel Antuna and Joan Adon
The Nationals protected infielder Antuna, their No. 12 prospect, and right-hander Adon, their No. 16 prospect, from the 2020 Rule 5 Draft by adding them to their 40-man roster.

Nov. 18: Signed Sam Clay
Clay, a 27-year-old left-hander, is looking to make his Major League debut after spending seven seasons in the Twins organization. Clay led the Minors with a 71.3 percent ground-ball rate in 2019, and he has allowed only one home run since the start of the ‘17 season (188 2/3 innings).

Oct. 30: Selected contract of
Ranked as the Nationals’ No. 26 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, the right-hander joined the 40-man roster for the first time since signing with Washington as a non-drafted free agent in 2013.

Oct. 28: Declined 2021 club options for Eaton and Sánchez
Both veterans expressed an interest in playing next season and returning to the Nationals.

Oct. 28: Declined club portion of 2021 mutual options for Kendrick and Thames
Kendrick is weighing his options of retirement vs. playing a 16th Major League season.

Oct. 22: Re-signed
Harrison and the Nationals agreed to a one-year contract worth $1 million with a possible $250,000 in incentives.