Baseball’s offseason will be in full swing starting at 5 p.m. Monday, when free agents are free to negotiate with other clubs. The Nationals have 12 free agents, the most in baseball, after they declined the $5 million mutual option on Adam Lind’s contract and catcher Matt Wieters officially exercised his $10.5 million player option Monday.
Below is a look at each of the Nationals’ 11 free agents. (All ages are as of July 1, 2018; fWAR reflects FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement.)
1B/LF Adam Lind
2017: .303/.362/.513, 14 HR, 0.9 fWAR^ in 116 games
The Nationals’ $1 million investment in Lind in February seemed like a bargain at the time and proved to be one. The left-handed-hitting slugger was signed to serve as Ryan Zimmerman’s backup at first base and provide a power bat off the bench. He filled those roles and more. After not playing in the outfield since 2010, Lind started 25 games in left field while being the best pinch-hitter in baseball. His four pinch-hit home runs, the first of which he clubbed on Opening Day, led the majors and set the Nationals’ career franchise record.
Outlook: The Nationals could have brought him back, but declined his $5 million mutual option, an indication that they believe they can find a cheaper option for the backup first baseman/bench power role.
LF Jayson Werth
2017: .226/.322/.393, 10 HR, -0.3 fWAR in 70 games
Werth’s seven-year contract, a deal that signaled the franchise’s shift from division doormat to perennial contender, ended in frustrating injury-plagued disappointment. The left fielder’s season was derailed when he fouled a ball off his left foot in early June. He fractured it and didn’t return until late August. He was given the starting spot despite his struggles – and Howie Kendrick’s success in his absence – and went 1 for 14 with two walks in the first four NLDS games against the Cubs before going 2 for 4 with two walks and losing a ball in the lights, which cost the Nationals a run, in Washington’s Game 5 loss.
Outlook: The Nationals sure made it seem like Werth isn’t returning next season when they produced and presented a Werth tribute video during their regular-season finale, but Werth has said he wants to continue playing and a return as a backup outfielder hasn’t been ruled out.
IF/OF Howie Kendrick
2017 (with Phillies and Nationals): .315/.368/.475, 9 HR, 1.6 fWAR in 91 games
The Nationals’ acquisition of Kendrick was overshadowed by their bullpen overhaul, but the veteran utilityman proved invaluable in helping Washington overcome its series of injuries. After a blistering though injury-marred start in Philadelphia, Kendrick kept hitting when he arrived in Washington, batting .293 with a .837 OPS with the Nationals in 52 regular season games. But his playing time plummeted when the Nationals became whole again, and he had just three plate appearances in the playoffs.
Outlook: Daniel Murphy’s status for the start of the season is unclear after his recent microfracture knee surgery, which leaves the Nationals with a question: Are they comfortable giving the starting spot to Wilmer Difo or would they rather give the job to a veteran starting-caliber second baseman and have Difo serve as the club’s utilityman again? Kendrick fits the veteran starter profile and could give Washington some insurance and a potent bench bat once Murphy returns.
RHP Brandon Kintzler
2017 (with Twins and Nationals): 3.03 ERA, 1.15 WHIP 39 SO, 16 BB, 0.9 fWAR in 71 1/3 innings
The rare contact-heavy late-inning reliever, Kintzler became a coveted bullpen cog after posting an all-star first half as Minnesota’s closer, and the Twins flipped him to the Nationals before the trade deadline to complete Washington’s three-pronged bullpen makeover. Kintzler settled into the seventh-inning role, setting up with Ryan Madson to get to Sean Doolittle in the ninth. Kintzler struggled when asked to pitch in other situations, but was lights-out in the seventh, allowing one run in 11 appearances in the seventh inning.
Outlook: With Doolittle and Madson returning, if Kintzler comes back to Washington, it would be to pitch the seventh inning again. He could sign for more money with another club to close or pitch the eighth. For what it’s worth, MLB Trade Rumors predicts the Nationals will re-sign Kintzler to a two-year, $14-million deal.
C Jose Lobaton
2017: .170/.248/.277, 4 HR, -0.6 fWAR in 51 games
This isn’t the best time for Lobaton to enter free agency. Always viewed as a defense-first catcher, Lobaton struggled behind the plate in 2017 and was one of baseball’s worst hitters, ranking near the bottom in batting average and OPS.
Outlook: After four years as a backup catcher in Washington, Lobaton’s days as a National appear over. Pedro Severino likely will partner with Matt Wieters as the club’s catchers. Raudy Read is also waiting in the wings.
IF Stephen Drew
2017: .253/.302/.358, 1 HR, 0.1 fWAR in 46 games
Drew’s season was marred by a couple major injuries, first a hamstring strain in April and then an abdominal muscle tear he suffered in July. He put off surgery to repair the tear in hopes of returning, but didn’t play in a game after July 25.
Outlook: Difo excelled as Washington’s utility infielder in Drew’s absence and figures to hold on to the role next year. Surgery would complicate finding a job for Drew, who turns 35 in March and has been slowed by injuries the past two seasons, but he’s a proven capable bat off the bench with some positional versatility.
RHP Matt Albers
2017: 1.62 ERA, 0.852 WHIP, 63 SO, 17 BB, 0.8 fWAR in 61 innings
A non-roster spring training invitee, Albers was the only consistent Nationals reliever before the midseason bullpen overhaul. After tossing 11 scoreless innings in spring training, he began the season with Class AAA Syracuse before eating innings in middle relief for the Nationals. He eventually found himself closing contests and notched his first career save in May – after the most appearances in MLB history without one since the save became an official stat in 1969.
Outlook: Albers won’t have trouble finding a major-league deal this time around. He may even fetch a multi-year contract entering his age-35 season. The Nationals may be reluctant to give him one, though.
RHP Joe Blanton
2017: 5.68 ERA, 1.489 WHIP, 39 SO, 13 BB, -0.3 fWAR in 44 1/3 innings
Albers’s unexpected emergence as a dependable option made up for Blanton’s underwhelming season. Signed to a one-year, $4 million contract in February, Blanton, a converted starter, had a 9.49 ERA when he was placed on the disabled list in mid-May. He was better upon returning, posting a 4.22 ERA over his final 37 appearances, but didn’t make the postseason roster.
Outlook: Blanton lives in northern California, where he also owns a vineyard, and wanted to stay on the West Coast last year so he figures to end up out there.
LHP Oliver Perez
2017: 4.64 ERA, 1.333 WHIP, 39 SO, 12 BB, 0.3 fWAR in 33 innings
Perez’s job was to get lefties out and he was good at it, holding left-handed hitters to a .665 OPS and one home run in 73 matchups.
Outlook: The Nationals don’t have a shortage of left-handed relievers. Doolittle, Enny Romero, Sammy Solis, and Matt Grace are all slated to return in 2018, meaning Perez, who made $4 million last season, likely will not.
RHP Edwin Jackson
2017 (with Orioles and Nationals): 5.21 ERA, 1.513 WHIP, 60 SO, 29 BB, -0.1 fWAR in 76 innings
Jackson was the Nationals’ choice to replace Joe Ross in the rotation after Ross underwent Tommy John surgery in mid-July. He was effective initially, carrying over his strong performance with Class AAA Syracuse to the majors with a 2.93 ERA in his first seven starts. But he couldn’t sustain it and posted an 8.36 ERA in his final six outings.
Outlook: Ross isn’t expected to return until the middle of 2018 so Washington needs a fifth starter. The Nationals have a history of pursuing top-flight starting pitching when least expected and they could go that route again this winter. If they go a more conservative route, Jackson could be brought back to compete for the spot with A.J. Cole and Erick Fedde.
OF Ryan Raburn
2017: .262/.304/.431, 2 HR, -0.1 fWAR in 25 games
Raburn was acquired from the White Sox and quickly promoted to the majors because of Washington’s injury barrage. He made 14 starts in left field before he was placed on the disabled list in late July. He didn’t play again.
Outlook: The only way the Nationals bring him back is on a minor league deal for outfield depth.
OF Alejandro De Aza
Like Raburn, De Aza, who was on the verge of playing in the Mexican League before the Nationals signed him to a minor league deal, appeared in the majors because of injuries.
Outlook: Same as Raburn’s.
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