3:07pm: In addition to the moves below, the Nats added left-hander Jose Ferrer and right-hander Jake Irvin. To create roster space, they designated right-hander Tommy Romero for assignment while outfielder Yadiel Hernandez, lefty Evan Lee and righty Jackson Tetreault cleared outright waivers and were assigned to Triple-A Rochester. Additionally, the club avoided arbitration with infielder Ildemaro Vargas by agreeing to a one-year deal. Vargas will make $975K, reports Andrew Golden of the Washington Post (Twitter link). That’s a touch below his $1.1MM arbitration projection.
3:00pm: Talk Nats adds that Alu has indeed been added. 26 in April, Alu is an infielder who had a great year at the plate. Between Double-A and Triple-A, he hit .299/.365/.506 for a wRC+ of 132.
11:57am: The deadline for MLB teams to add players to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from selection in the Rule 5 draft is tonight at 5pm Central. The Nationals are set to add at least three players, according to Talk Nats. They are right-hander Jackson Rutledge, left-hander Matt Cronin and outfielder Jeremy De La Rosa. It’s possible more moves are still coming, with Talk Nats identifying Jake Alu and Jose Ferrer as possibilities.
Rutledge, 24 in April, was the club’s first round selection in 2019, going 17th overall. He got some work in affiliated ball after that draft but then saw the minor leagues get wiped out by the pandemic in 2020. Shoulder tightness and recurring blisters then limited his workload and effectiveness in 2021. He got things back on track somewhat here in 2022 by making 20 starts, but they were in Single-A and he only posted a 4.90 ERA. His peripherals were much stronger though, with a high BABIP and low strand rate likely pushing his ERA higher than deserved, as indicated by his 3.89 FIP and 3.93 xFIP.
He has yet to reach Double-A and is still likely not close to making his major league debut. Still, based on his previous prospect stock and ability to hit triple-digits with his heater, the Nats have decided they don’t want to risk losing him in next month’s draft. With the big league club mired in rebuild mode anyway, there’s little harm in dedicating a roster spot to someone who is unlikely to contribute in 2023 if the club thinks he can provide future value some day. He’s currently ranked the club’s #9 prospect at Baseball America and #10 at FanGraphs.
Cronin, 25, was a fourth round pick in that same 2019 draft. He’s worked exclusively as a reliever since then, working his way up the minor league ladder. In 2022, he split his time between Double-A and Triple-A, throwing 52 combined innings. In that time, he posted a 2.42 ERA with a 26.9% strikeout rate and 10.6% walk rate. He’ll give the club a left-handed relief option that can potentially be optioned between the majors and minors for the next few years. He’s 17th on the BA list and 30th at FanGraphs.
De La Rosa, 21 in January, was signed as an international free agent in 2018. He started 2022 in Single-A and completely mashed, producing a batting line of .315/.394/.505 with 26 steals. A midseason promotion to High-A didn’t produce immediate results, as he hit just .195/.273/.271, though he did swipe another 13 bags. In the field, he played primarily in center field and could have a decent floor with his speed and defense. BA slots him in at #10 on their list while FanGraphs has him at #8.