Nationals have a specific need this offseason: more power originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Be prepared for the Nationals to have a lot of “interest” in a lot of things the next month or two.
They have a lot of needs — corner outfield, both corner infield positions, a fourth starter, a catcher, bullpen help — which naturally makes them attached to almost every free agent under the sun.
A specific need they have is for power. The Nationals were 21st in home runs during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, relying on Juan Soto (a reasonable place for power) and their lithe shortstop Trea Turner (less reasonable). The Dodgers hit 118 home runs. The Nationals hit 52 fewer. That’s a problem.
So, where is there power on the market? It was at first base with Carlos Santana before the Royals signed him to a more-than-reasonable deal. It remains in the corner outfield spot, whether brought by high-priced items like George Springer, Marcello Ozuna or Michael Brantley. The subset of outfield free agents — Kyle Schwarber, Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall, Joc Pederson, David Dahl, etc. — provides some, too. The Washington Post reported Friday that the Nationals are interested in Schwarber. He’s a bad defender with a high slugging percentage who strikes out a lot. The same could be said about most on the above list with him.
It appears the universal DH will not be part of 2021. Teams are waiting to know this for sure, as are Schwarber, Duvall and company. They are more likely to find jobs if it exists.
Assuming it is out, the Nationals are likely to look at Schwarber as more of a left-handed platoon option and ideally one who does not play in the outfield from innings 1-9. They have no left-handed power outside of Soto. So, adding the mere threat would be beneficial. Essentially, Schwarber and Pederson are a wash. Their ages are within a year of each other, their career OPS-plus nearly the same and Pederson could possibly end up at first base. Both smash right-handed pitching and struggle against left-handed pitching (Pederson, in particular, has massive splits).
So, there’s not a perfect solution when Mike Rizzo wades through the second tier of outfielders, where most of the power lives in this free agent class. DJ LeMahieu may be the best all-around hitter available, but no one would point to him as able to fill a power void. The expensive outfield tier is just that, and even Brantley would not be labeled a power hitter (just an excellent all-around one).
Which puts the Nationals into a hunt to mix deficient players so their best, and needed, option is at their disposal more than their drawbacks.