It’s no secret that the Washington Nationals have been one of the least successful teams in all of baseball since the franchise won its first World Series title in the fall of 2019. The sinking timeline began with the franchise’s decision to pay 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg over All-Star third baseman Anthony Rendon. It’s true that Rendon has yet to replicate his success in Washington in his new home of Los Angeles. However, it was still a mistake considering Strasbourg have only made eight starts in the last three seasons. Other pieces from the 2019 run have retired over the years, like Howie Kendrick after the 2020 season and Nationals legend Ryan Zimmerman after another tough season.
On the dog days of the 2021 season, they famously traded beloved franchise players and won an ugly 65 games, the franchise’s lowest overall winnings tally since 2010. The loss of Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the LA Dodgers marked the end of an era for Nat’s baseball and the beginning of a new one. Many fans hoped the new era would still include young MLB superstar Juan Soto, but were heartbroken when they also traded him ahead of the 2022 trade deadline. Throughout the 2010s, it’s been a process of showcasing elite talent across the baseball diamond before management decides not to pay the stars what they’re worth. Washington fans want a change at the highest level, and a change at the top could soon be made that could propel the franchise into a brighter future.
Advances on the property front
All eyes on the Nationals are first on who will buy the team. The Lerner family intends to explore selling the franchise they have owned since 2006. While much is unknown about the financial details of the ownership change process, the importance of the change is clear to all. A new owner can lead to a radical shift in an organization from front office to field service. Look at Washington’s NL East rivals, the New York Mets, who have paid more big names like Francisco Lindor and Max Scherzer since billionaire Steve Cohen walked in the door. The deeper the owner’s pockets go, the harder the general manager can work on paying the stars the right numbers to keep them staying. It was the Lerners who failed to pay franchise stars like Soto, Turner and Rendon.
Sure, the position of Nationals owner isn’t among the most lucrative in the league, but any open owner job is enough to attract the interest of more than a few wealthy suitors. Based on the latest information, Ted Leonsis was the favorite to buy the franchise, according to reports from this summer. The owner of two other Wizards & Capitals-esque Washington sports properties would essentially have a monopoly on DC sports. There are of course many other interested parties, but it is unknown how great the interest of many is. For now, the looming question mark of ownership is still a mystery without a proper timeline. But the best fans can hope for is progress towards a new ownership transfer ahead of spring.
Fill up the staff with veteran weapons
The Nationals have produced one of the top five bottom pitchers in baseball for the past three seasons. They placed 26th in 2020, 24th in 2021, and a lazy 29th in 2022. A combination of regression and injuries has catapulted this once vaunted unit into the pitching basement. For 2023, Washington will place a focus on putting its young arms into successful positions. Players like Josiah Gray, MacKenzie Gore and Cade Cavalli will surely get their start as they represent the long-term future of this Nationals team. Other places in the rotation may be given to Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin. However, the Nationals are yet to bring in a quality veteran weapon or two.
You can’t count on Strasburg staying healthy, Corbin staying consistent and it’s likely Gore and Cavalli aren’t ready for full-time spots in an MLB rotation just yet. The shortlisted pitchers are Noah Syndergaard, Corey Kluber and Wade Miley. All of these are age-high options, but that’s the point. Washington needs an experienced staff presence and Miley, Kluber and Syndergaard are all past their prime but can still offer open market value to a team with minimal expectations in 2023. The only expectation is that the Nationals’ young players make a step forward, and adding wise veterans to a barren staff is the right way to ensure that happens.
Get a notable name for the corner outfield
It’s a fact that the Nationals in 2023 will be among the worst in baseball. But that shouldn’t stop GM Mike Rizzo from being afraid to spend a little to improve certain positions. Washington’s production in the infield is certainly lackluster, but part of the team’s future lies in it. Keibert Ruiz is the franchise catcher that Nats fans have been wanting for so long. CJ Abrams is called up and ready to take on the shortstop role in 2023. It remains to be seen whether Luis Garcia or Carter Keiboom can become everyday stock material, but the Nats’ front office continues to offer them a potent leech. Then there’s the great story of Joey Meneses, who earned his place as a regular by hitting a .324 BA/.563 SLG/.930 OPS slant in 56 games. The outfield of the Nationals doesn’t have much to offer either. The difference, however, is that the parts appear more expendable there.
Some of the Nationals’ brightest prospects are potential future stars on the outfield, but likely won’t make an immediate impact in 2023. Top-rated lookout Robert Hassell III is scheduled to emerge in 2023 or 20245, while their third-tier lookout James Wood will not be convened until 2025. It’s possible for the Nationals to use some of their available payroll to spend some money on a notable name to fill a corner spot in the outfield. Michael Conforto is looking for a new home and would be a hit for Contact Boost at the top of the lineup. Wil Myers is another name that could slip under the radar in the free agency market. Both Conforto and Myers are names that can easily be forgotten in a free agency class that encourages more high-profile bats and gloves. The Nationals don’t need big names, they need a certain base level of positions that won’t be filled by the young stars of the future.