The Washington Nationals offseason got off to a rough start. In missing out on big name closers such as Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon, as well as White Sox ace Chris Sale, the Nationals failed to acquire their top offseason targets. They did trade for outfielder Adam Eaton and catcher Derek Norris. Eaton will start in center field, but Norris’ role is unclear due to a number of moves made in late January and the month of February. That Nationals February spending spree proves that they’re all-in on 2017.
Nationals February Spending Spree Means all-in on 2017
After a quiet first few months, the Nationals finally got down to business in late January.
The Nationals retained Drew on a one-year, $3.5 million deal. Re-signing Drew was a wise move, as he was a valuable reserve asset for manager Dusty Baker.
Hitting .266 and hitting eight home runs, Drew provided a power bat off the bench. He also provided defensive versatility. While a natural shortstop, Drew has the ability to play around the diamond. Drew can also man both third and second base.
In addition to Drew, the Nationals struck a deal with Lind. Like Drew, Lind came to D.C. on a more than affordable deal. Lind and the Nationals agreed to a one-year, $1 million deal, a steal for Washington.
In 2016, Lind hit just .239. While he didn’t reach base on a consistent basis, he did hit for power. Lind hit 20 home runs in 2016, and drove in 58 runs. Lind also hit for power back in 2015, when he also knocked 20 home runs, but drove in 87 runs to go along with a solid .277 average. The power has always been there for Lind, and his power is all the Nationals will need in the role he’ll play.
Washington will yet again roll with veteran infielder Ryan Zimmerman at first base this year, but Zimmerman has been injury prone. Missing at least 45 games in each of the last three seasons, and over 60 per season the last two years, Zimmerman has been unable to remain the field. That led the Nationals to sign Lind.
Lind will serve as Zimmerman’s backup and will start if and when injuries present themselves. Lind will also be used as a pinch hitter late in games as a power lefty bat off the bench.
Despite acquiring Norris, the Nationals felt they still needed a catcher with a decent bat; Norris hit just .186 in 2016. That led to their signing of Weiters.
The Nationals and Wieters agreed to a two-year, $21 million deal to bring the veteran backstop to the nation’s capital. Wieters does come with some baggage.
Over the last few years, Wieters has struggled to remain healthy. In 2014, he played just 26 games, and in 2015 he played just 75 games. However, 2016 was a solid comeback year for him. Wieters bounced back to have a productive year for the Baltimore Orioles in 2016, hitting 17 home runs and driving in 66 runs. While he hit just .243 and still missed 38 games, seeing Wieters revive some of his spark was encouraging. From 2011-2013, Wieters hit a combined 67 home runs, and drove in at least 68 runs in each of those years. It remains to be seen whether he can get fully back to that form in 2017. Only time will tell; however, his play behind the plate isn’t up for question.
Wieters has been a consistent force behind the plate defensively his entire career; he should be able to fit in with the Nationals healthy mix of veteran and youth arms.
In addition to their reinforcements around the diamond, the Nationals also got themselves some bullpen help.
On Tuesday, the Nationals agreed to a one-year, $4 million deal with Blanton. While not elite, the righty was a shrewd pickup for the Nationals.
Since adjusting to the bullpen, Blanton has become a reliable relief option. When acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates back in 2015, he recorded a 1.57 ERA out of the ‘pen. Last year, he continued to gel in the role.
In 2016, Blanton recorded a 2.48 ERA, as well as 80 strikeouts in 80 innings pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Blanton’s arrival will help mitigate the loss of long relievers Yusmeiro Petit and Matt Belisle. He’ll be their go-to long man, and can also be thrown into the rotation if injuries crop up.
The Nationals are all-in on 2017
Given the fact that the Nationals opted to go out and spend money late in free agency, they’ve proven that they’re in win-now mode, especially with the Wieters signing.
While he’s an upgrade to Norris, Wieters wasn’t a necessity. Given that Washington actually traded for Norris, many figured that he’d be their starting catcher in 2017. The Nats also have youngster Pedro Severino and veteran switch-hitter Jose Lobaton, adding to a plethora of options at catcher. Overloading at catcher shows that they’re gunning for a title.
Washington’s recent free agent acquisitions were all good moves. The Nationals February spending spree signals that they’re all-in on the 2017 season.