The Nationals have finalized their Opening Day roster, announcing this morning that non-roster invitees Dee Strange-Gordon, Maikel Franco and Víctor Arano all made the big league club. Yesterday’s designation of reliever Gabe Klobosits freed up one roster spot, while the other two 40-man vacancies were created by placing Seth Romero and Will Harris on the 60-day injured list.
Strange-Gordon returns to the majors after splitting the 2021 season between three Triple-A teams. It’ll be his 11th MLB season, and his first in Washington. Strange-Gordon is a three-time stolen base king and former batting champ, but his production has dipped in recent years. He hit just .266/.293/.343 with the Mariners between 2018-20, still putting the ball in play but rarely walking or hitting for power.
Despite turning 34 next month, Strange-Gordon still brings plenty of speed and athleticism. He’ll presumably back up starting second baseman César Hernández and could also see some time in the outfield. Strange-Gordon never took well to a center field experiment with the M’s, but he rated as a plus defender at second base during his peak with the Marlins.
Franco is readying for his eighth MLB season. A top prospect during his days in the Phillies farm system, he showcased some bat-to-ball skills and power but never drew many walks and struggled defensively. Franco never emerged as the middle-of-the-order bat the Phils envisioned, and he’s spent the past couple seasons on low-salary deals with the Royals and Orioles, respectively.
The 29-year-old had a decent showing with K.C. during the shortened 2020 season, but he managed just a .210/.253/.355 line in a bit more than 400 plate appearances with Baltimore last year. He’ll get the Opening Day nod at third base, though, as the Nats are down both Carter Kieboom and Ehire Adrianza. Kieboom was placed on the 60-day injured list with a UCL sprain last month, while Adrianza landed on the 10-day IL today due to a left quad strain.
Arano, like Strange-Gordon and Franco, has spent the bulk of his career in the NL East. He worked to a 2.65 ERA in 74 2/3 innings with the Phillies between 2017-19, striking out a solid 26.3% of opponents with an impressive 7.6% walk rate. The right-hander missed almost all of the 2019 campaign because of elbow inflammation, and he spent 2020 at the alternate training site.
The 27-year-old Arano spent last season in the Braves organization, where he landed via waivers. Despite posting a 2.50 ERA in 36 frames with Triple-A Gwinnett, he never got a big league call and was outrighted off the 40-man roster. Arano’s typically steady production made him a solid minor league signee for a Washington team with a thin bullpen, and he’ll earn his first MLB look in three years.
Harris was expected to be a noteworthy part of that bullpen, but he’s been hit hard by injuries of late. The veteran righty missed most of last season after undergoing thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in May. He recently underwent a clean-up procedure to remove scar tissue and won’t throw for three to four weeks, tweets Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com. Harris won’t return to an MLB mound until at least early June.
Romero is dealing with a left calf strain, per the team. The former first-round pick has only three MLB appearances to his name — all in 2020 — but he’ll accrue big league service and pay while on the IL. Romero posted a 5.31 ERA in six Double-A appearances last season but struck out a fantastic 37% of opponents.
Washington also placed Stephen Strasburg on the 10-day injured list. That had been an inevitability for some time, as Strasburg has been dealing with lingering effects of a 2021 TOS surgery of his own. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said on 106.7 The Fan this week that Strasburg could return by the start of May but didn’t want to specify a timeline at this point (h/t to Matt Weyrich of NBC Sports Washington).