WASHINGTON -- When the Nationals reached an agreement to bring back veteran free agent Howie Kendrick on a two-year deal, they solidified their bench with about a month to go before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.Building a bench was one of the items on the Nats' short list
WASHINGTON -- When the Nationals reached an agreement to bring back veteran free agent Howie Kendrick on a two-year deal, they solidified their bench with about a month to go before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.
Building a bench was one of the items on the Nats' short list this offseason, and now their reserves are all but set. The bench includes Kendrick, Matt Adams (signed as a free agent last month to replace Adam Lind), Wilmer Difo, Brian Goodwin and the backup catcher, which is currently Pedro Severino. Other than possibly signing a veteran backup catcher, the Nats can pencil in their reserves for Opening Day.
Washington is set with its eight starting position players, top four starting pitchers and most of its bullpen, including the back end. The club began this offseason searching for tweaks to improve the team and have accomplished that by re-signing key free agents in Kendrick and right-hander Brandon Kintzler. The Nats have ensured the team that won 97 games last season will be all but intact for 2018.
So what's left for Washington's offseason?
The club's fifth starter is far from settled, though the Nats re-signed Edwin Jackson, who served as the No. 5 starter for most of the second half. Jackson should compete at Spring Training with a few young pitchers, including A.J. Cole and Erick Fedde, for the final rotation spot.
Look for the Nationals to also hunt for depth, perhaps bringing more starters into camp to compete for rotation spots, filling out their bullpen with arms to protect their relievers with injury issues and adding players to challenge for reserve roles.
Now that the Nats have taken measures to address their needs this offseason, they can operate from a position of strength. As the Hot Stove has stalled, leaving several prominent free agents still on the market, Washington can hunt for a potential bargain.
If one of the front-end free-agent starters continues to linger on the market and the asking price decreases, maybe the Nats will jump into the mix to bolster their rotation. If they decide to upgrade at catcher, the Nats could decide to spend money there. But for all the teams with holes to fill and potential impact free agents still searching for jobs, the Nationals have quietly taken care of business and have put themselves in a strong position as Spring Training approaches.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.