WASHINGTON -- Spring Training is a little more than two weeks away. As the Nationals prepare to head to West Palm Beach once again, they already have a team that will be one of the favorites in the National League. They have addressed several items on their relatively small offseason
WASHINGTON -- Spring Training is a little more than two weeks away. As the Nationals prepare to head to West Palm Beach once again, they already have a team that will be one of the favorites in the National League. They have addressed several items on their relatively small offseason to-do list, and yet with so much of the market this winter still unsettled, it is possible the Nationals could still be major players whenever this Hot Stove finally unfreezes.
So it's time for a Nationals inbox to explore the possibilities of the team improving in the final weeks of the offseason, including questions regarding a certain Marlins catcher and the possibilities of adding to the starting pitching staff and bullpen.
Do the Nats need to acquire a catcher before Spring Training starts? If so, who do you think they target?
-- Jeremy F., Potomac, MD.
Still getting quite a few catching questions, especially centering on J.T. Realmuto. Ever since the Marlins launched their rebuild this offseason, the Nationals have been linked to Realmuto. When Miami traded Christian Yelich during the weekend, the talks only grew louder, and now the Nationals are perhaps the favorites to land Realmuto. It still makes a lot of sense. Catcher is the one obvious position in which the Nationals could improve this winter, and Realmuto is one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. The price, however, still does not match.
:: Submit a question to the Nationals Inbox ::
Miami got the haul it was looking for in order to trade Yelich to Milwaukee. The Marlins received what were at the time the Brewers' Nos. 1-, 6- and 14th-ranked prospects, according to MLB Pipeline. Washington has been hesitant to include its top prospect, Victor Robles, in any deal the past two winters and has shown no indication to do so. It's even difficult to imagine a scenario in which the Nats would trade Juan Soto -- their No.2 prospect and No. 29 in all of MLB. So, in order for this trade to go down, as outlined here by MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, the Nationals have insisted on a deal centering on some of their lesser prospects, such as shortstop Carter Kieboom and right-hander Erick Fedde. MLB Pipeline lists them as the Nats' third- and fourth-ranked prospects, respectively, and Kieboom is 90th on the top 100 rankings. So that's where the stalemate stands, and whether either side decides to concede will determine if Realmuto is playing in Washington next season.
If they can not find an upgrade for catcher Matt Wieters, they are going to split time this year between Wieters and his backup, which will be either Pedro Severino or possibly a free-agent veteran backup.
I got a couple questions inquiring about different starting pitchers this week, so this one pretty much sums it all up. The Nationals have four solid starters who will be able to stack up agaubst any other team in baseball, however, it's not normal for them to begin the season with uncertainty in their rotation, like they currently have at the No. 5 spot. Washington has explored adding a starting pitcher, perhaps through free agency, but it would have to come at the right price. The good news is that as the free-agent market continues to stall, the Nationals are in a prime position to swoop in if costs fall or they find a pitcher at the value they see fit.
I still do not expect the Nationals to sign one of the top free-agent starting pitchers (i.e. Yu Darvish or Jacob Arrieta) but it is likely they could be players for the next tier of pitchers (think Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb). But I also would not be surprised to see the Nats enter Spring Training with this group of starters and a few veterans brought in to compete with their younger starters for the No. 5 spot.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think the Nationals would be interested in signing another reliever … but if it comes at the right price. It's the sort of advantageous position the Nationals have put themselves in this offseason. They are returning virtually the entire team that won 97 games a year ago, and they don't need to make major changes. They are content with their bullpen for the first time in a long time going into the season with the trio of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler. Yes, the potential to make the bullpen an even greater strength could be enticing, but they seem unlikely to overreach in order to do so.
Before they resigned Kintzler, the Nats engaged in talks with Matt Albers, but he reportedly agreed to a two-year deal with the Brewers on Monday.
Maybe. The end of the season is a long time from now. Those talks with Anthony Rendon and his agent, Scott Boras, about a possible contract extension were supposed to happen when the two sides met to discuss his arbitration contract for 2018, maybe even to find something to buy out the rest of his arbitration eligible years. As of now, there doesn't seem to be much progress on that front, but both sides have expressed interest in working out something.
This is a fun question, I think my answer is Vladimir Guerrero, and not just because I loved watching him so much (Although, how fun would peak Vlad be in the middle of this lineup?). Imagine he and Bryce Harper as the corner outfielders Who would dare run on those arms? Guerrero would add another power bat to the Nats' already potent lineup, but would also provide some balance from the right side to a lineup whose strength leans lefty. Harper, Guerrero, Rendon and Daniel Murphy comprise a scary middle of the order. Plus, adding Guerrero would probably free up Michael A. Taylor to be traded, and he could bring back the most value to improve the team elsewhere.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.