After two huge road wins over the Astros in the first two games of the World Series, the Nationals are headed back to Washington in command of the Fall Classic. Here’s the latest on the NL champs….
- Charlie Morton in a Nationals jersey? It could’ve happened last winter, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Washington pursued the veteran righty, and the Nats “believe they were the runners-up” to the Rays for Morton’s services. The Nationals made a offer similar to the Rays’ two-year, $30MM deal with Morton, though the turning point may have been Tampa’s closer proximity to Morton’s offseason home in Bradenton, Florida. On paper, it would seem like Morton’s decision paved the way for the Nats to ink Anibal Sanchez to a two-year, $19MM deal, though Sherman writes that the Nationals considered signing both Morton and Sanchez, not to mention their blockbuster signing of Patrick Corbin earlier in the offseason.
- Speaking of Sanchez, the idea of him starting Game 3 of the World Series would’ve seemed far-fetched two years ago, when the veteran righty’s career seemed to be on thin ice after struggling during the last three seasons of his five-year, $80MM contract with the Tigers. Since then, however, Sanchez has gotten back on track in a major way, as MLB.com’s Mike Petriello notes that no pitcher has a lower percentage of hard-hit balls over the last two seasons than Sanchez. Reasons for the turn-around could include Sanchez’s increased prep work between starts, or a change in pitch usage, as the veteran hurler has greatly increased the use of his cutter and mostly abandoned his slider, formerly one of his primary offerings.
- Sanchez also cited his relationship with catcher Kurt Suzuki as a big factor in his improved performance with both the Braves and Nationals, another example of how Suzuki has himself enjoyed something of a late-career renaissance. As The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (subscription required) writes, Suzuki considered retiring following the 2016 season, and was hesitant about leaving his family in California to sign a one-year contract and play across the country with the Braves. His wife convinced him to take the deal, however, and achieve Suzuki’s goal of ten full seasons of MLB service. That clock is now running at well over 12 seasons and counting, as Suzuki has enjoyed three of his best seasons at the plate in 2017-19, and is now perhaps closing in on his first World Series ring.
- Finally winning a championship would be the ultimate payoff to years of aggressive moves from GM Mike Rizzo and the Nationals’ front office, Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post writes. Prospects such as Lucas Giolito, Jesus Luzardo, and Sheldon Neuse were dealt to the White Sox and Athletics in trades that brought the likes of Adam Eaton and Sean Doolittle to Washington, and the Nationals are comfortable seeing their former prospects go on to MLB stardom for other teams. “It’s difficult to win consistently and have a good farm system because you use your prospect capital to acquire major league players. But that’s been our plan the whole time,” Rizzo said. It helps that the Nats have been hung onto some prospects (i.e. Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Stephen Strasburg) who have turned into major homegrown stars, while also scoring in other trades that brought other big names like Trea Turner into the organization as youngsters.