Having to deal with the loss of production from a certain superstar that will not be named, the Washington Nationals came into the 2019 MLB season with hopes of competing in a National League East division race that kept growing more competitive by the day. Re-arming themselves with pitching through free agency, the Nats decided to shy away from plugging in a spark plug at the plate and instead relying on their starting rotation to carry the load.
It has not worked out too well so far.
Currently sitting in fourth place with only the lowly Miami Marlins sitting below them, the Nationals have played to a dreadful 19-28 record so far, placing them nine games behind the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies. While it is early on in the season, the Nationals need to assess where they sit and realize that with the pieces they currently have, rebuilding is not an undertaking they should deal with.
Paying Patrick Corbin $140 million across six years to be second or third fiddle in their starting rotation speaks to their dedication and want to win now, even if the results do not back that assertion up. Also having young, up and coming players like Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Trea Turner performing at such high levels at the moment, and the window to compete for the Nationals is here and now.
Anthony Rendon is on the wrong side of 30, and while his veteran presence is much appreciated with all of the youngsters on the team, his window to provide any type of production for the club seems to be on the downturn, even though it is not at a steep decline.
This team needs to put all of their eggs into one basket, understand what it takes to make some noise and go out and do it, provided it does not tear down their farm system for years to come. For a franchise that held so much promise when Bryce Harper was the franchise’s blood, sweat, tears, and heartbeat but never reached the promised land, would it not feel oh so good for both the fans and the franchise to make good on the type of team they wanted to be and make it back to the playoffs after being written off?
It is going to take a lot to get this team back into contention, and it starts with hitting. Howie Kendrick as the team’s starting first baseman absolutely has gone on for way too long, and things need to start with making a big change there. The 35-year old and former Los Angeles Angels player is not even close to the player he used to be, although is hitting at a pretty decent clip to begin the year, boasting a .303 average across 109 at-bats.
A small sample size yes, but Kendrick’s bat serves best off the bench behind someone the team acquires… which could be Justin Bour as a free agent or a Brandon Belt from the San Francisco Giants, who should begin to pack it in and look forward to the draft yet again. Belt would represent a major upgrade for this team at first, and he is under contract until 2021, which gives this team a bit of time to reap any benefits he has left before wanting to ship him out themselves.
Second base is good with Brian Dozier, shortstop is strong with Turner, and Rendon holds down the hot corner, with Yan Gomes behind the dish. Except for Kendrick, this is a pretty defensively stout infield, but their offensive prowess lives through Rendon and Turner, with the occasional Gomes burst of power to help out.
Outfield wise, Soto holds down left field, Robles patrols center field and Adam Eaton is in right field, making for a pretty solid unit all around. Off of the bench, Michael Taylor is the team’s lone dedicated outfielder off the pine, with newly-signed Gerardo Parra taking over as utilityman/outfielder/first baseman.
Other pieces off the bench include backup catcher Kurt Suzuki and infielder Adrian Sanchez, and while neither are sexy picks, Suzuki is a solid backup catcher and Sanchez can bounce around the infield to fill in spots in defensive replacements or provide spot starts when called upon.
The rotation is solid as of now, even with injuries knocking Jeremy Hellickson to the injury list. Erick Fedde is the penciled-in fourth starter and has not made a start yet after being recalled from Triple-A Harrisburg on May 9.
The bullpen has been solid enough too, riding Sean Doolittle as their closer and Kyle Barraclough, Mark Grace and Tony Sipp as their shutdown arms in the pen.
While a rebound will be very tough, potentially impossible, there are pieces out there that this team can go out and get to make that climb back up in the standings a bit easier.