The Nationals announced that the club has made qualifying offers to righty Jordan Zimmermann and shortstop Ian Desmond, but did not issue an offer to center fielder Denard Span or to righty Doug Fister. (Via James Wagner of the Washington Post, on Twitter.) At one time, all four players had seemed like strong candidates to receive QOs, though only Span was on the bubble as the decision neared.
As things stand, then, the Nats will only pick up two extra draft picks this winter — assuming, as is expected, that Zimmermann and Desmond reject the offer and sign elsewhere. It’s too soon to rule out a return for either with any degree of certainty, but all signs have pointed toward new destinations. Washington reportedly attempted to work out extensions with both players a few winters back, but talks never progressed.
It is at least marginally surprising to hear that the club won’t issue an offer to Span, who has been a key cog at the top of the Nats lineup since coming to D.C. via trade three years ago. But he’s entering his age-32 season after missing both the start and the end of the season due to separate core muscle surgeries.
Washington could have chosen to roll the dice with the offer, making it with expectations that Span would decline. After all, returning on a one-year deal — possibly with reduced playing time, given the presence of Michael Taylor in center — might not have held much appeal to the veteran. And the downside wouldn’t have been terrible, given that Span would make a nice fit and wouldn’t be overwhelmingly expensive. But the front office apparently decided that some combination of the team’s needs, Span’s health, and the cost were not worth the risk.
As for Fister, who’s also headed for his age-32 campaign, 2015 was a season to forget. He did end up with a palatable-enough 4.19 ERA over 103 innings, but he lost his rotation spot and only ended up making 15 starts. Fister figures to be a popular bounceback option on this year’s free agent market.