The Nationals finished the 2023 season with a 71-91 record that left them as one of the worst teams in the National League, even as it represented a substantial improvement over the club’s 107-loss 2022 campaign. While the club has sat out the top of the free agent market during the recent seasons of their rebuild, it seems that may not be the case this offseason as the club looks to upgrade at the infield corners and at DH, per TalkNats. The club has already been linked to a reunion with third baseman Jeimer Candelario, who was posting career-best numbers with the Nats prior to being dealt to the Cubs at the trade deadline. The report suggests that the club has interest in first baseman Rhys Hoskins and outfield/DH slugger Jorge Soler in addition to Candelario. The report goes on to indicate that Washington has been “very active” in the starting pitching market to this point in the offseason, though it does not connect any specific names to the club.
The rumored targets make sense for the Nationals. The club has a major hole at third base given that former top prospect Carter Kieboom has failed to establish himself the big league level. Kieboom’s .207/.266/.368 slash line (70 wRC+) in 2023 was largely in line with his career numbers of .199/.297/.301 (65 wRC+), and Candelario or another third base addition would almost certainly represent a significant upgrade over the 26-year-old. Meanwhile, an addition at first base or DH could help the club improve an offense that currently figures to use journeyman Joey Meneses at one position without an established starter at the other.
As for the rotation, the club has several interesting young arms such as Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore that they figure to prioritize developing, with veterans such as Patrick Corbin and Trevor Williams who can reliably eat innings. That being said, the Nationals’ starting staff posted a combined 5.02 ERA last season, the sixth-worst figure in the majors. What’s more, the club’s 5.30 FIP in the rotation was better than only the lowly Rockies, while their starting staff combined for just 4.9 fWAR, better than only Colorado and Oakland. That leaves plenty of room for improvement if the club decides to add even a lower-level free agent such as Matthew Boyd or Frankie Montas to its rotation, to say nothing of a more impactful addition.
More from around MLB’s East divisions…
- While the Mets have reportedly shifted their focus away from superstar free agent Shohei Ohtani, Jon Heyman of the New York Post suggests that the club is still looking at potential impact additions this offseason. They’ve long been connected to top-of-the-market arm Yoshinobu Yamamoto as they explore potential rotation upgrades, and Heyman adds that the Mets are looking into “nearly every available frontline starter” in addition to Yamamoto, including southpaws Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, and Eduardo Rodriguez. While Heyman notes the club is unlikely to land a rental arm such as Tyler Glasnow or Shane Bieber on the trade market, he does suggest the club’s interest in rotation upgrades extends to White Sox starter Dylan Cease, who is under team control for the next two seasons and has seen plenty of trade buzz this offseason. Rotation upgrades make plenty of sense for New York after the club shipped out veteran aces Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer at the trade deadline over the summer, leaving Kodai Senga, Jose Quintana, and newly-signed righty Luis Severino as the club’s only rotation locks entering 2024.
- The Rays have interest in a reunion with right-hander Cooper Criswell even after non-tendering him last month, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Criswell, 27, made his big league debut as a member of the Angels in 2021 with a one-game cup of coffee that lasted just 1 1/3 innings. He spent the past two seasons as a member of the Rays, with a 5.45 ERA and 5.00 FIP in 36 1/3 innings of work across 11 appearances. While those numbers are certainly nothing to write home about, Criswell’s ability to go multiple innings and 46.8% career groundball rate at the big league level could make him a worthwhile depth addition for a Rays club that relied on 40 different pitchers throughout the 2023 campaign.