As a team that finished 55-107 in 2022 and faces an uncertain ownership picture, the Nationals are not expected to be shopping for the big ticket free agents this winter, but general manager Mike Rizzo has said he will remain active in looking to upgrade the roster. Per Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post, Rizzo specifically mentioned the rotation, as well as first, third and the corner outfield spots as positions he could look to add in.
The rotation is no surprise, given the Nats ranked 29th in the majors in starting pitcher ERA last season. Given the team is still in the midst of a rebuild, it’s more likely they seek out one or two buy-low veterans to stabilize the rotation than make any sort of splashy move. For starters, a few of the rotations spots are already sewn up. Veteran Patrick Corbin has struggled mightily of late, posting 5.82 and 6.31 ERAs the past two years but he’s owed $24.4MM next season and then $35.4MM in 2024. Then there’s Stephen Strasburg, who’s owed $140MM over the next four seasons but has thrown just 31 1/3 innings over the past three seasons as he battles his way back from a mountain of injury problems. It’s possible there’s a bad contract swap to be done, but it’s more likely the Nationals try and get them both healthy and see if they can rebuild their value in 2023.
Beyond those two, the team may look to fill the final three spots with youngsters Josiah Gray, Cade Cavalli and MacKenzie Gore, but that poses plenty of questions itself. Gray gave up 38 home runs across 148 2/3 innings in his rookie year after coming across from the Dodgers in the Max Scherzer deal. Cavalli dealt with shoulder problems and Gore never pitched for the team after arriving in the Juan Soto deal due to elbow inflammation. All three have plenty of promise and will get a lot of opportunities in 2023, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt for the Nats to solidify things a little by adding a veteran pitcher or two.
On the position player side of things, Keibert Ruiz, CJ Abrams, Luis Garcia and Lane Thomas form a promising young core up the middle, so it’s not surprising that it’s the edges that Rizzo is looking to upgrade there.
In the infield, Carter Kieboom will look to bounce back from Tommy John surgery and stake a claim to be the team’s long term third baseman. Kieboom hasn’t hit much in the big leagues, posting wRC+s of 18, 68 and 69 in his three seasons. The Nats rebuild affords him a bit more time to find his feet, and