With four unsurprising decisions by the Washington Nationals, Adam Eaton, Howie Kendrick, Aníbal Sánchez and Eric Thames all became free agents Wednesday afternoon. The Nationals declined the option of retaining each player for the 2021 season. It was the team’s first batch of moves since MLB’s offseason officially began.

Earlier in the day, Ryan Zimmerman, Sean Doolittle, Asdrúbal Cabrera, Kurt Suzuki and Brock Holt hit the open market, too. But the Nationals had choices to make with Eaton, Kendrick, Sánchez and Thames and wasted no time once the World Series concluded Tuesday night.

Eaton, a 31-year-old outfielder, had his $10.5 million club option declined and will instead receive a $1.5 million buyout. Sánchez, a 36-year-old starter, had his $12.5 million declined and will receive $2 million.

For Kendrick and Thames, a pair of veteran first basemen, the Nationals held a mutual option for next season. For either player to return, both he and the team would have had to exercise the option. Because the Nationals didn’t, Kendrick gets a $2.25 million buyout and Thames will receive $1 million. Kendrick’s mutual option was for $6.5 million, while Thames’s was for $4 million.

None of this precludes the Nationals from negotiating with Eaton, Kendrick, Sánchez or Thames in the coming weeks and months. Same goes for Zimmerman, Doolittle, Cabrera, Suzuki and Holt. After the 2019 season, the Nationals declined a club option for catcher Yan Gomes and wound up signing him to a two-year, $10 million deal. Of this group of free agents, Kendrick seems most likely to get a call for a low-cost, one-year deal.

Washington has long coveted Kendrick, who is 37 and considering retirement. In September, he admitted that 2020 might have been his last season had it not been marred by the novel coronavirus pandemic. But because it was only 60 games and Kendrick’s two sons couldn’t hang around the park, he told reporters that he will discuss the future with his family. Kendrick finished the year on the injured list with a left hamstring strain. His plan was to head home to Phoenix, recover and, with his body and kids in mind, plot the next steps from there.

“I was thinking about retiring after this year,” Kendrick said Sept. 25. “But because of covid, it kind of raised the question of like: ‘Man, do you want to go out like this? Do you want 2020 to be any worse?’”

Zimmerman, 36, opted out of playing in 2020 after signing a one-year, $2 million contract to extend his long run with the Nationals. A similar contract could make sense if Washington again wants his right-handed bat in a rotation of first basemen. Before Zimmerman decided against playing, that rotation was supposed to include Kendrick and Thames, a left-handed slugger. Throughout the past decade, the Nationals often have paired Zimmerman, a right-handed hitter, with a lefty power bat.

Depending on what happens, Washington could say goodbye to eight members of its title-winning team from 2019. Kendrick was the hero in Game 7 of the World Series win over the Houston Astros. Zimmerman has been a franchise cornerstone since 2005. Eaton arrived via trade before the 2017 season and has since been a fixture in right field and atop the Nationals’ order. Doolittle, a 34-year-old reliever, was a solid closer who built strong community connections in Washington. And Sánchez, a reliable starter throughout the championship run, was known for mentoring young Latin players and loosening the clubhouse.

Later Wednesday, just after the Nationals made their option decisions, the club announced the full coaching staff for 2021. Randy Knorr, an organizational lifer, was promoted to coach first base in place of the recently departed Chip Hale. Bobby Henley, another lifer, was retained and moved back to third base coach. The group is rounded out by Tim Bogar, Henry Blanco, Kevin Long, Pat Roessler and Jim Hickey, whom Manager Dave Martinez handpicked to replace Paul Menhart as pitching coach.

These are all steps toward the team looking much different next spring.

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