Which free agents should the Washington Nationals target this offseason? Matt Holleran looks at three big names to keep an eye on.
On Saturday afternoon, the Washington Nationals were finally elminated from postseason contention for the 2018 season.
An inevitable fate that had been in the works since August finally came to light and the Nationals will not be reaching the postseason for a third consecutive season.
After all that went wrong this year, there are clearly some holes the Nationals need to fix in 2019 if they want to make it back to the playoffs.
Here are three players who may be free agent targets of the Washington Nationals this offseason.
DJ LeMahieu, 2B Colorado Rockies
After trading away Daniel Murphy in August, the Washington Nationals had a clear hole at the starting second base position. The team tasked Wilmer Difo with filling the role for the rest of the season, and Difo has played surprisingly well with the increased playing time. Although he has shown some signs, Difo is more of a fifth infielder, super utility player, and would not be a great decision to start as the full-time second basemen. If Washington wants to try to upgrade this position via free agency, DJ LeMahieu of the Colorado Rockies is the best player out there.
To date in this 2018 season, LeMahieu has hit for a line of .279/.325/.441 and has added 15 home runs and 59 RBIs in just 120 games. LeMahieu has always been an outstanding hitter, hitting over .300 three out of the last four seasons, including his 2016 year where he hit an absurd .348. Although he did have to battle some injury issues this season, LeMahieu has been fairly durable in his career and has played 146 games or more in every season but this one since 2014.
For the Nationals, LeMahieu would be a huge upgrade to their lineup and would provide some great top of the order protection for Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, and potentially Bryce Harper. Although LeMahieu is not a superstar, he will not come cheap. Although, if Washington is looking to make a big splash in free agency, LeMahieu may be their number one target.
2. Wilson Ramos, C Philidelphia Phillies
The catcher position was undoubtedly the least productive position on the team this season for the Nationals. The duo of Matt Wieters and Spencer Kieboom provided little to no offense, really hindering the bottom of the Washington batting order. It is no secret that the Nationals will be looking for an upgrade at catcher this offseason, and ex-National Wilson Ramos may be the best free agent catcher out there.
Ramos was named to the American League All-Star Team this year before being traded to the Philidelphia Phillies at the trade deadline. He has hit .311/.360/.495 with 15 home runs and 70 RBIs in 107 games. For Ramos, the big question is always his health, and it has again been an issue this season. The 31-year-old has dealt with hamstring issues all season, forcing him to miss some significant time. In regards to a potential return to Washington, the Nationals will likely be interested in Ramos if and only if they can get him at the right price. Due to his injury history, teams may not be willing to give Ramos a big time, long-term deal. If the Nationals do decide to pursue Ramos, look for them to offer him a bigger money, fewer years deal.
3. Dallas Keuchel SP, Houston Astros
Coming into the 2018 season, starting pitching was seen as the Washington Nationals biggest strength. As we stand here on September 25, it was one of the things that derailed their season. Starters Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark extremely underperformed, and Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson could not stay healthy to make a true impact. When Washington shipped off Gonzalez to the Milwaukee Brewers, it left them without a left-handed starter in their rotation. With the injury history of Strasburg and inconsistency of Roark and other fill-in fifth starters, the Nationals may be looking to make another big-time starting pitching splash this offseason.
If they go that route, Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros would be the perfect fit. It has been an up and down 2018 season for Keuchel who has posted a record of 11-11 with a 3.71 ERA in 196.2 innings, striking out 146 on the year. Keuchel is a guy who won the 2015 AL Cy Young and would be a game changer for the Nationals rotation. Paring Keuchel with Strasburg and Scherzer would give you, arguably, one of the best rotations in baseball. Because of his talent, Keuchel will not come cheap, so it seems more likely Washington may take this route if they lose Bryce Harper via free agency. If Harper does depart, I have a strong feeling Keuchel will be at the top of the Nationals target list.
Gambling this season? Want to try it just to see what it feels like? Go to MyBookie.ag and use promo code ARMCHAIR25 at checkout. They will match your deposit dollar for dollar. Putting in $100? You’ll now have $200.