The Nationals have had a fairly quiet offseason, adding third baseman Nick Senzel and right-hander Dylan Floro on one-year deals. If the club is planning to make an impact addition anywhere, TalkNats reports that it won’t be outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, who the club is seemingly not part of the sweepstakes for. The report goes on to suggest that the club is in search of a lefty-swinging power bat to add to their lineup.
That’s not necessarily a surprise, given previous reports of Washington’s interest in a reunion with switch-hitting third baseman Jeimer Candelario prior his three-year deal with Cincinnati and the subsequent addition of Senzel, who the Reds had non-tendered just weeks prior, to the D.C.’s infield mix. MLB.com’s Jessica Camerato adds that the club’s pursuit of a left-handed bat could specifically focus on a player who can be added to the first base and DH mix alongside the likes of Joey Meneses and Stone Garrett. Adding lefty power to the lineup is a worthy goal for the Nats, considering the club’s brutal production from the left side last season. Their left-handed hitters combined for a wRC+ of just 82 last season, the worst figure in the NL and bottom-three in the majors. That’s due in large part to a minuscule .123 isolated slugging that ranks ahead of only the White Sox.
The market for left-handed power is, of course, headlined by center fielder Cody Bellinger. After a pair of injury-marred seasons in Los Angeles, the 2019 NL MVP rebounded in a big way with the Cubs this past year to post a 134 wRC+ while clubbing 26 homers in 130 games. Though primarily an outfielder, Bellinger has plenty of experience at first base as well with 258 career starts at the position including 59 appearances with Chicago this past season. Certainly, Bellinger would be a strong fit for the club’s needs and add some star power to a team that lost 91 games in 2023. While Nationals ownership has found success in negotiating with Bellinger’s agent, Scott Boras, in the past when landing players such as Max Scherzer, it would be something of a surprise to see GM Mike Rizzo’s front office commit to a pricey, long-term contract for Bellinger even as the club is still in the midst of what has turned into a lengthy rebuild.
Setting aside Bellinger, there are a handful of other options available on the free agent market who could fit the club’s needs. Veteran slugger Brandon Belt is coming off a strong season with the Blue Jays during which he crushed 19 home runs in just 404 trips to the plate, while the likes of Joey Votto and Joey Gallo are among the other lefty options available who could play first base for the Nationals next season. The likes of Joc Pederson and Eddie Rosario could provide left-handed power, though both players would likely be limited to DH or left field.
The likes of Josh Naylor, Max Kepler, and Dylan Carlson are among the players who bat from the left side rumored to be available on the trade market, though Kepler and Naylor would be shorter-term acquisitions who wouldn’t line up cleanly with Washington’s competitive timeline while both Kepler and Carlson derive much of their value from their ability to play quality defense, making them questionably choices for a DH role. Barring a more aggressive shift towards contention, the Nationals seem unlikely to part with quality prospects or young players to acquire lefty power via trade when so many mid-tier free agents could fulfill the same role for only money.
Should the Nationals ultimately fail in their quest to add a lefty power bat, the club has added a pair of first base/DH options on minor league contracts this offseason in Lewin Diaz and Juan Yepez, though only Diaz hits left-handed of that pair and the 27-year-old sports a weak slash line of just .181/.227/.340 in 343 trips to the plate.