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2023 SBNation Offseason Sim: Revamping the Nationals in 43 Transactions

Yes, you read the title right. Grab the popcorn, because this’ll be a long one.

After the World Series concludes, Max Rieper of Royals Review gathers 30 baseball fans together to run a mock simulation of the offseason, allowing each faux GM to run their team as they see fit (with the general rules here). This year was my third year participating in this fun-yet-chaotic exercise, having run the Nationals last year and the Braves the year prior. While I was open to running whichever team needed a GM, I ended up back with the Nationals again to make it easier for him to get the exercise up and running. Additionally, this year had the added wrinkle of compressing the already-brisk exercise from its usual three days to two in order to accommodate everyone’s schedule, which made it particularly chaotic.

As the summary is already going to be long enough as it is, let’s dive into my main goals heading into this sim:

1) Reduce the payroll, ideally to $106 million, and $110 million failing that.

Heading into the sim, I was given a listed payroll of around $121 million and a recommended payroll of…$106 million. Yippee. Not only do I have to work around the minefield of deferred payments, but because of Strasburg’s situation I also have to factor in his contract as well in full. Additionally, I’m stuck with Patrick Corbin’s contract as he gains 10/5 rights, and due to sim rules that makes him ineligible to be traded. Because of this situation, while I aim to meet the recommended payroll, I also give myself a bit of a buffer to at least compensate somewhat for the situation ownership has put me in.

However, aside from trading Trevor Williams (which I have little hope of entering the sim), I’m stuck with one path forward:

2) Get as much as possible for the arb-eligible players.

There’s basically no way around this: if they’re eligible for arbitration, they’re eligible to be removed from the roster. I’m fairly certain that I’ll be able to get deals done for Robles, Harvey, Finnegan, and Thomas, but when it comes to the other names they’re non-tender candidates if nothing comes up. Everyone eligible for arbitration is ending up off the roster, one way or another, and I’m getting whatever I can for them.

Side note: As the details re: Ildemaro Vargas avoiding arbitration were unknown heading into the sim, Max essentially rendered his salary situation to be a non-factor. Because of this, I essentially considered Vargas himself a non-factor, as he would be set to be cut from the roster anyway.

3) Take as many gambles as possible with the major league team without blocking the top-tier prospects.

On the one hand, I’m not a fan of deliberately tanking during rebuilds, especially since the implementation of the lottery system for the first six picks further discourages this. If the team isn’t competing, then I’ll dedicate the time towards taking as many chances as possible to see who pans out and who doesn’t. That being said, players like James Wood and Brady House are rising fast, and if they show they’re majors-ready, they need to take priority on the majors roster. Because of this, I need to make a roster that can sift through the many options but still be flexible to accommodate the cream of the prospect crop if they show they’re ready.

With this in mind, I hop onto the sim’s Slack as soon as it’s available and quickly get started.

Traded LHP Tim Cate to the Brewers for OF/1B Mark Canha

Traded OF/1B Mark Canha to the Twins for INF/OF Austin Martin

While the real-life Brewers ultimately traded Canha to the Tigers, I acted fast and agreed to a deal in the early hours of the Slack’s activation to see if I could flip him before the Tigers had a chance to grab him. While Cate did fine in AA, I realistically see him as a likely up/down reliever at best, which isn’t that useful value-wise, but the Brewers are happy because they get a better-regarded player than who they received in the real-life Canha trade.

Martin may not have lived up to his hype as the fifth-overall draft pick in 2020, but there’s still enough in his profile to play a useful role. Offensively his quality of contact is lacking, but his pure contact ability and eye at the plate still give him a usable offensive base, while his experience at multiple positions give him a fine floor as a utilityman if he isn’t good enough to stick anywhere full-time. The versatility is especially useful given the uncertainty in multiple positions, where Martin becomes an okay option to stick in any spot that needs a hole plugged. It’s not the most exciting return, but it’s still a useful one that’s an upgrade over Cate.

Traded RHP Joan Adon to Athletics for INF Jordan Diaz

Adon provided the Nationals with a lot of starts, but realistically he’s probably going to get squeezed off the majors roster with his lack of options despite an interesting changeup. In contrast, Diaz isn’t exactly attention-grabbing himself (and I certainly don’t believe Steamer’s projection of 101 wRC+), but with Garcia set to be non-tendered, the rest of the options in AAA not exactly making me confident, and a limited position player market, Diaz is worth a shot for a new look if no one else is gotten for second base, and he’s a good development option if a better replacement is found.

Traded RHP Kyle Finnegan, OF Stone Garrett, RHP Tanner Rainey, and RHP Zach Brzykcy to the Twins for OF/DH Matt Wallner

While Harvey and Thomas were generating much of the trade interest for Washington, Finnegan and Rainey were generating very little overall. However, fortunes turned when Minnesota’s GM expressed some interest in acquiring both relievers and Garrett. After lots of back and forth around that group and Wallner (he was wary of trading Wallner for them, I wanted to see what else I could get for Harvey alone), he eventually suggested Brzykcy as a way to bridge the gap between our valuations. I was fine with that agreement since I’m not that high on Brzykcy, and shortly afterwards Wallner hopped onto his flight to Washington.

Let’s be honest: between questions about his contact ability and his terrible defense, Wallner is a power-and-patience DH who needs to mash if he’s going to succeed in the majors. Thankfully, he more than fits this with the oodles of power he has at his disposal. Not only was he able to produce against all types of pitches, but his .502 xwOBACON is among the very best in the league and helps to make up for his contact problems. (To give you an idea, the Braves’ top three in xwOBACON were Acuna, Ozuna, and Olson…and Wallner outdid all three.) He has his definite warts, but for a team that needs more thump and has a hole at DH, Wallner is a perfect fit.

Traded C Riley Adams to Rays for LHP Josh Fleming, LHP Graeme Stinson, and 1B Evan Edwards

While catching depth is important, Adams has enough red flags in his profile that he’s the fourth-best catching option available to the Nationals, so I’m fine with trading him away to shore up several areas. Stinson has been pretty rough since being drafted, but he’s excellent at spinning the ball, and his slider can be a real weapon if he can turn it around. If he can’t, though, his work off the field with developing StatStak makes him a very valuable guy to bring into the front office if he decides to hang it up. Originally I also tried to nab Austin Shenton, but the Rays’ GM was a major fan of him, so I settled with grabbing Edwards, who’s a flier with contact issues but above-average power and plus defense at first.

Fleming, however, is the most important name in this trade because at the end of the day, the Rays have been misusing him more than him being truly bad. The main issue with Fleming is that he should be limited from facing righties, as they’ve generally taken him to town whenever they’ve faced him, though his saving grace is a 58.2% grounder rate against them. However, while his career results against lefties haven’t been great, it’s mainly due to them teeing off his cutter in 2020, and his walk, strikeout, and groundball rates against them otherwise have been very solid in the majors. Additionally, his career 2.47 xFIP against lefties would rank him among the best in the entire majors. Lastly, while he ideally shouldn’t be a long reliever due to his righty vulnerability, his ability to pitch multiple innings makes him a decent candidate to finish the rest of a game and save the bullpen if it’s already well out of reach.

Realistically, as long as he’s deployed more as a traditional reliever, his exposure to righties should be limited as much as possible to ones prone to groundballs and when the game is already decided. He doesn’t have the most thrilling profile, but it’s perfectly fine as a guy who rounds out the pen.

Traded RHP Jordan Weems to Yankees for RHP Matt Sauer, INF/OF Jamie Westbrook, and 1B Eric Wagaman

This is mainly a move to try to bolster the system’s depth on the upper levels. Sauer is the main get in the deal, as while he plummeted in prospect rankings in the past, he had a solid rebound in 2023 and is looking more like a backend starter candidate. Westbrook is a minors journeyman who’s fringy in the infield and only average in left field, but he’s generally mashed lefties enough that he’s worth considering as a bench candidate. Lastly, Wagaman was added as a strong work ethic player who wanted a chance to prove himself as more than a platoon partner, so he’ll get that chance in the Nationals’ system.

Originally, Robles was part of the deal since I needed to get rid of him, but the Yankees’ GM eventually opted for Weems instead after some discussions in part because he wasn’t interested in "a player nobody wanted" in Robles, and I was fine parting with Weems despite personally liking him because his lack of options work a lot against him here.

Traded OF Victor Robles to the Royals for INF/OF Devin Mann

Unfortunately for the Yankees, it turns out that another team was in fact interested in Robles, and I’m able to get him sent off to Kansas City. With Mann, I get a guy who can likely pan out as a utility player but where that role would also stretch him to his very limits (mainly defensively). Still, he has some pop in his bat and has generally performed wherever he’s been outside of Omaha, so he’s worth a shot in the majors to see how he might be able to stick. This trade also means that Austin Martin ends up as the leading candidate to start in center field.

Traded RHP Trevor Williams and 1B/OF Roismar Quintana to Cubs for INF/OF David Bote

Frankly, I don’t see a good way to improve Williams, and I had already given up hope for trading him until joking about a Williams/Bote swap turned into serious conversations with the Cubs. Quintana is the cost of making the trade happen, and given that he’s striking out a quarter of the time in A-Ball without much power, I’m not exactly reluctant to give him up to make the deal go through. In Bote, I have an option who would likely be more palatable to getting the rest of the money off the roster given the weak position player market. If moving him proves impossible, though, I still save on the overall cost while Bote is still okay as a bench option.

Traded OF Jacob Young to Diamondbacks for RHP Drey Jamison and RHP Peter Strzelecki

One of the biggest surprises in the sim was the number of teams who expressed interest in Young, particularly for his baserunning. However, the Diamondbacks were easily the most interested team to the point where their GM openly expressed a willingness to "part with quality" if circumstances aligned re: his pursuit of Lourdes Gurriel, and I eventually was able to pressure him to part with both Jameson and Strzelecki. With Jameson, I get a prospect who’s out for all of 2024 but was an interesting candidate for both the rotation and bullpen pre-injury. As for Strzelecki, not only is he a good candidate for middle relief, I was intrigued by his slider’s steep horizontal approach angle due to recent comments by Eno Sarris (TL;DR, steeper HAAs might lead to inducing more swings on the outside of the plate).

Non-tendered 1B/DH Dominic Smith, INF Michael Chavis, and 2B Luis Garcia.

The only interest in any of these three came from Oakland in Garcia, but since their GM preferred Gelof a lot more, it was more banter than serious discussion. Smith and Garcia were offered minors deals, but they chose to go elsewhere.

Traded RHP Hunter Harvey to Guardians for INF Tyler Freeman, RHP Eli Morgan, RHP Ethan Hankins, and INF Aaron Bracho

Harvey was easily the player I got the most hits on during the sim, but he was held back by perceptions that he was closer to a middle reliever (arguably an unfair judgment) and having only two years of control left (which is admittedly very fair). Because of that, while many teams ended up going after him, only a few made notable offers, with the Guardians’ offers topping the rest.

The biggest name of the group is Freeman, a high-contact former prospect who hasn’t had the best performance in the majors. Realistically, he’s probably average at best defensively, but not only was his contact rate solid in the majors, the quality of his contact was actually generally okay, strong enough that Steamer projects him to a 107 wRC+ for 2024. While the Guardians bounced him around the diamond, he’s best as a second baseman, and he replaces Jordan Diaz as the leading candidate to open the year at that position. Morgan isn’t the most impressive name, but as someone who’s generally been fine as a middle reliever, he’s a useful option to stabilize the bullpen.

Meanwhile, the farm system gets a boost with the addition of both Hankins and Bracho. Hankins is a high-risk, high-reward pitcher who has solid stuff but will need to shake off the rust in 2024. There’s definitely an argument for him to pan out as a mid-rotation starter, but he’ll need to hit the ground running if he’ll be reaching that ceiling. As for Bracho, he’s a power-based flier who got added in because I fooled the Guardians’ GM into adding a little extra to the deal. He’ll likely have too many warts to be a full-time starter, but a future as a Max Muncy-lite bench piece is certainly within the cards.

Traded OF Lane Thomas to Mariners for OF Jarred Kelenic, OF Zach DeLoach, and INF Jake Scheiner

While I tried to maximize Thomas’ value, many GMs were generally skeptical of what he showed in 2023, and I can’t say that I blame them as much of his underlying profile is more okay than solid while his profile was carried by beating up hard on lefty pitchers. At the end of the day, most of the GM lobby viewed him as an interesting fourth outfielder who could start if needed but who had a better 2023 season than he should have. However, several teams were willing to show more interest than others, and eventually the Mariners emerged as the clear frontrunners to land Thomas.

Kelenic isn’t exactly free of questions himself, and after a hot start in the beginning of the season, the rest of the season saw him perform just a hair below-average offensively. That being said, Kelenic generally showed a knack for hitting the ball hard throughout the season, and he’s still young enough at age 24 where another step forward is still entirely possible, so he’ll slot into the outfield as the starting right fielder. Opposite him against righties will be DeLoach, who has notable concerns with contact but still possesses solid power, and while he’s likely a reserve outfielder in the end, there’s enough in his profile that he’s worth a shot in left field to see if he can be the strong side of a platoon there. Lastly, Scheiner looked fine enough in 2023 to make the list of ZiPS’ gainers in 2024 projections, and that’s enough to consider him for a starting role if an opportunity opens up.

Traded RHP Matt Sauer and OF Alex Call to the Marlins for RHP George Soriano

While Sauer’s value has likely rebounded, I’m not exactly attached to him, and Call is long-term a fifth outfielder at best. Thus, when the Marlins came calling, I flipped both to take a chance on Soriano, who’s a decent gamble to see whether he can pan out as a backend starter. For the most part, his profile is actually okay, but his four-seamer has too much downward movement to be a useful pitch despite the velocity. If he can successfully convert his fastball to a sinker, where the velocity makes up for any questions around horizontal movement, he should work okay as a #5 starter.

Traded RHP George Soriano to the Rangers for INF Davis Wendzel

Aaaaaaaand there goes Soriano just as quickly as he arrived.

I was originally intending to keep Soriano, but as soon as the Rangers’ GM finally joined the sim, I jumped at the chance to grab Wendzel, who’s exactly the kind of player I’m hoping to give a chance at third base. He’s had quite an up-and-down career, and a 101 wRC+ in AAA isn’t exactly going to make people jump for joy either. However, 2023 not only saw an improvement in his health, but whacking 30 homers (even in the offense-friendly Pacific Coast League) is an encouraging sign for a player whose power has generally been a question mark for his career. Although he’s able to play across the diamond, he’ll serve as the Nationals’ new third baseman, where he’ll turn out as a useful regular if he can keep his power gains while being an above-average defender at third base.

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At this point, I take stock of my situation.

For the most part, I think I’m set on the position player side of things. In the infield, Abrams stays at shortstop, while Meneses moves to the cold corner after Smith’s non-tender. Freeman ends up taking over the job at second base, and between Wendzel and the multiple bench options available to me, third base is pretty covered. In the outfield and DH, Kelenic and Wallner have right field and DH on lockdown, and I’m fine enough with DeLoach to give him the lions’ share of playing time in left field. Martin might realistically be a stretch in center field, but if a realistic candidate to uproot him doesn’t come around, the job is his. Lastly, I seem to be the only one interested in Edward Olivares on a majors deal, which both adds some power and gives me a good platoon partner for DeLoach, as well as Kelenic and/or Wallner if needed.

Pitching, however, is on shakier ground. While the rotation is probably okay as things stand for a rebuilding team, adding another option or two isn’t a bad outcome either to take a gamble on a rebound option or to add to the young names vying for a spot. The bullpen, on the other hand, is a mess after the selling I’ve done, and Eli Morgan enters the final day as the main closer candidate more by default than because he’s an ideal option, with Mason Thompson, Josh Fleming, and Peter Strzelecki as the next-best options. All four are perfectly fine as options for the bullpen, but when they’re the best options available on the team, that’s nothing short of rough.

Therefore, I start looking heavily for pitching, both for the bullpen and to help round out the rotation. My goal is to focus on guys who get whiffs with a secondary, even if the rest of their profile has warts. Ideally, I also upgrade in center field as well, but if nothing comes about on that front, Martin can work in the short-term. I’m also dedicated to finding a home for Kieboom, as at this point he’s pushed off the roster but deserves another chance somewhere.

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Traded 3B Carter Kieboom to the Brewers for RHP J.B. Bukauskas

Thankfully, the morning of the final sim day, the Brewers are kind enough to knock out two birds with one stone as Kieboom is traded for relief help. Bukauskas has bounced around the league over the past few years, but it’s hard to argue with a great performance at Milwaukee’s AAA affiliate when he sported excellent strikeout, walk, and groundball rates. While he’s out of options, I have enough confidence in him to stick in the Nationals bullpen as a middle reliever.

Signed RHP Spencer Turnbull to a 1 year, $2M deal

A great low-risk, high-reward signing who immediately slots into the Nationals’ rotation. Turnbull spent much of 2023 recovering from Tommy John surgery, and pre-surgery he was a solid fit in the middle to back of the Tigers’ rotation. Additionally, because of how the Tigers handled him at the end of the year, he’s actually controllable through 2025, which makes him a useful trade candidate if the Nationals decide to go that route. A complete no-brainer where no other teams were willing to commit even a minimal majors deal to him.

Or, at least, that was the plan at the time. Since the sim’s conclusion, Turnbull has been granted a year’s worth of service, so he is now a one-year rental instead of controllable for an extra year. It’s still a gamble that I’d easily make even with that information in mind, there’s just less upside to this signing than was originally assumed at the time.

Signed RHP Drew VerHagen to a 1 year, $2M deal with a $3M team option, RHP Trey Wingenter to a 1 year, $2M deal, and RHP Buck Farmer to a 1 year, $3M deal with a $3M player option

Probably the deals that’ll generate the most controversy, as not only are these three not exactly obvious candidates to go after, but it comes with the understanding that Farmer starts the year as the Nationals’ closer because that’s what it took to get him to sign. Yes, really. The major catch here is that all three have one major trait in common: a slider with a strong whiff rate. While Wingenter can’t really control his breaking ball, I’m banking on some of his struggles being injury-related as his health have never been that good, and if it can be improved then I’ve got a useful reliever on my hands. Meanwhile, VerHagen’s sweeping slider is the main positive in his entire profile, and it was even an okay weapon against lefty batters as well. If he can rely even more on that pitch in 2024, he should be okay.

So what about Farmer, who I’m making the team’s closer? Not only does his slider have a great whiff rate, but it spiked above a 50% whiff rate against righties in 2023 and was his best pitch against them as well. And while it’s performed okay against lefties as well, he has another surprise in store against them in a changeup that’s a groundball generator against them (65.2% GB rate against lefties in 2023 alone). If he can rely more on the secondaries and less on his four-seamer, then the decision to make him a high-leverage weapon becomes much more viable than it initially appears.

Signed RHP Dylan Floro to a 2 year, $15.5M deal

This came at a very awkward time, as while I had been pursuing Floro, I had given up at this point and decided to move onto the above group to help stabilize the bullpen. However, when I decided to go ahead with Farmer, Floro came back and said he was willing to accept my offer. After some debating, I decided to go with it.

So what went wrong with Floro’s 2023 season? After a lot of looking ahead of time…well, it’s all just bad luck. Seriously, there was nothing wrong with the pitches, nothing wrong with how he was using them, nothing with how he was placing them, etc. All that went wrong was how batted balls were dropping onto the field than anything else. This is probably an overpay for Floro, but given how the bullpen is looking week and how his results should have been in 2023, I feel that this signing ends up making enough sense that it’s not that bad of a deal.

Signed OF/DH Edward Olivares to a 1 year, $1M deal

His defense is bad enough to fill anyone with dread whenever he plays on the field, but he’s sported an average-y bat the past two years, which is always going to be in demand. He’s a useful platoon partner to the lefty bats and the first bat off the bench whenever some pop is needed.

Signed LHP Wandy Peralta to a 1 year, $1M deal

To this point, Peralta had only gotten minors deals, and he expressed a willingness to sign instantly for a 1/1 deal when I broached the idea. While Peralta had gotten a good deal of luck in 2023, his slider seemed to be the largest problem in his profile due to the questionable command of the pitch, with much of his profile otherwise generally being okay. He might not be an exciting signing, but as the second lefty in the bullpen alongside Fleming, he’ll be fine.

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At this point, things fall apart on the salary front. Part of my general plan hinges on flipping Bote to a team getting desperate at second and/or third base, which would get my salary below $106 million. However, not only do I suddenly get radio silence from the teams closest to such a deal, my attempts to pivot elsewhere fall apart when the Cubs’ GM publicly dumps cold water on any ideas around Bote’s ability in the majors, which all but knocks out any hope of getting something done with the remaining GMs as they cite his comments for their hesitation. Because of that, I’m stuck with Bote and being above the target payroll, so I salvage the situation by both staying under $110 million and making Bote my backup infielder.

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Traded RHP Eli Morgan to the Tigers for RHP Sawyer Gipson-Long

While Morgan is probably fine as a middle reliever, I jump at the chance to acquire Gipson-Long, who I’ve waited nearly the whole sim to acquire. While his velocity isn’t great, his pitches’ movement in his four majors games were all pretty solid, and he’s good at limiting the walks. However, the main downside is that 2023 also saw quite a bit of proneness to homers, which was especially problematic in AAA. Still, his steps forward in 2023 are enough to pencil him into the end of the rotation to start the year.

Traded INF Jake Scheiner and INF Jake Alu to the Astros for INF Will Wagner and OF Colin Barber

At this point, I had largely accepted that my moves were done, but I decided to float Joey Meneses out on the block again to see who would bite despite knowing that he probably wouldn’t get much interest. And while that was largely true, what I didn’t expect was the Astros’ desperation for third basemen to be so great that they were willing to overpay for them. Initially discussions centered around Scheiner for one of Wagner or Barber, but when I got greedy and asked for both, he rewarded me by agreeing if I were willing to part with Alu as well. By this point Alu looks like a depth piece, so that was an instant yes.

In exchange, I get two bat-first prospects in Wagner and Barber. Wagner’s defensive home is a major question mark, but he’s got solid contact ability and the potential for at least decent power, and he can play multiple positions even if his defense at those spots isn’t great. It might be an overly-optimistic view, but I think a Ty France-esque outcome is certainly a realistic possibility. Meanwhile, Barber is probably a platoon bat who’s best in the corners and can play a fringy center field, but that’s basically Jake Fraley, and that’s a profile that can fit on any roster. As the cherry on top, I get an unprompted message from the Mets’ GM who is furious at this deal, particularly at how I managed to nab Wagner.

Signed C Jorge Alfaro, INF Joey Wendle, P/INF/OF Charlie Culberson, INF Jonathan Schoop, SS Nick Ahmed, INF Paul DeJong, OF Rafael Ortega, OF Sam Hilliard, RHP Carl Edwards Jr., RHP Nick Wittgren, RHP Matt Barnes, RHP Daniel Hudson, RHP Jacob Webb, RHP Vladimir Gutierrez, RHP Joely Rodriguez, RHP Jake Odorizzi, and RHP Jose de Leon to minor league deals.

That’s…a lot of guys.

While it seems like I’m going overboard with depth here, this is more going with the idea that Spring Training will be a filter to see who can help build the best AAA team and bring more ideas to the table, especially since not everyone will end up sticking around. As such, I take a wide net to look at areas such as useful depth in CF (Ortega/Hilliard) and the infield (Wendle, DeJong, Ahmed, and Schoop), interesting bounceback candidates (Barnes, Hudson, Rodriguez, and Webb), veteran presences (Ahmed, DeJong, Odorizzi, Edwards Jr.), and general guys who have had bad injury luck but interesting stuff (Gutierrez, Rodriguez, de Leon). The main exception is Alfaro, who is nabbed to be the batterymate of Drew Millas at AAA.

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So, who’s on the 2024 Opening Day Roster?

Catchers: Keiburt Ruiz, Israel Pineda

No real surprise here. With Adams gone and Millas starting the year in AAA, Ruiz obviously starts the majority of the games while Pineda works as his backup.

Infield: Joey Meneses, Tyler Freeman, CJ Abrams, Davis Wendzel

Abrams at shortstop is a complete no-brainer, and while Meneses isn’t great at the cold corner, I’d rather give him another chance at that spot rather than force Wallner to learn a new position, at least for the time being. Meanwhile, Freeman and Wendzel at second/third will get a chance to see whether they can stick as a regular at their respective positions. If Brady House turns out to be ready earlier than expected, the stronger of the two will man second base while the weaker moves to the bench.

Outfield/DH: Zach DeLoach, Austin Martin, Jarred Kelenic, Matt Wallner

Compared to the 2023 squad, this area has been completely revamped. While Wallner can play the outfield, he’s bad enough with the glove where he’ll be slotting in the DH spot the majority of games. Meanwhile, Kelenic will get a chance to show he can be an everyday regular, while DeLoach will get the lion’s share of playing time in left field, or at least man the larger half of a platoon. Martin in center field is likely a stretch, but until one of the prospects is ready, I’m content to stick him there and let him run with the opportunity.

Bench: Pineda/Ruiz, David Bote, Edward Olivares, Devin Mann (?)

Beyond whichever catcher isn’t starting, two of the remaining bench spots go to Bote and Olivares. Bote is generally fine as the main bench infielder, and if anything happens to Freeman or Wendzel, he’ll be the next option available to start at either position. Meanwhile, Olivares is the main power option who can platoon with the lefty batters and generally be fine as a DH option in case of injuries, though his playing time on the field will be very selective due to his atrocious defense. For the final bench spot, there’s a plethora of names that could fit in this spot, and I don’t think there’s really a wrong answer here. At the end of the day, Mann is my choice here between his ability to play multiple positions (and at least likely being a better outfielder than Olivares) and being an okay candidate for the short side of a platoon.

Starting Rotation: Josiah Gray, Mackenzie Gore, Spencer Turnbull, Patrick Corbin, Sawyer Gipson-Long

Gray and Gore are locked into the front of the rotation as the younger pitchers with the highest ceiling, while Turnbull takes the third rotation spot in his quest to rebound. Personally, I’m fine with booting Corbin completely off the roster, but the one saving grace is that he can eat innings, so I might as well keep him in the rotation with the questions surrounding Fleming and Turnbull. As for the final spot, I eventually settle on giving Gipson-Long the first crack to see if he can run with it.

Bullpen: Buck Farmer, Dylan Floro, Drew VerHagen, Tyler Wingenter, Wandy Peralta, Josh Fleming, J.B. Bukauskas, Mason Thompson

Farmer’s signing came with the agreement that he’d serve as the Nationals’ closer, with Floro the best option to be the next strongest high-leverage guy. After that, the third member of the bullpen’s high-leverage crew basically comes down to whichever pitcher shows himself to be the strongest. Absent any other developments, I lean towards VerHagen taking the third spot due to his sweeping slider, though arguments could easily be made about others as well. The remaining options who don’t win that spot will hold down the fort during the middle innings, with Fleming serving as the main garbage time reliever if games are out of hand. The final spot will basically boil down to whoever proves themselves in Spring Training. However, I have a heavy preference towards Mason Thompson between his sinker/slider combination and the addition of a new curveball in 2023.

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Conclusion:

At the end of the day, I think I did fine. By no means was it perfect, of course, and this team does have a few problems. For one, while I added a lot of interesting gambles, it’s fair to say that the ceilings for most of them are closer to "okay regular" than big star, with Matt Wallner likely the largest exception. I’m also banking hard on breaking ball whiff ability, as otherwise the bullpen becomes a weakness very quickly and my optimism for the relevant signings looks borderline foolish. Finally, while taking a gamble on flipping Bote wasn’t a bad idea, the fact remains that I ended up above the $106 million recommended budget in large part because I banked too hard on that idea.

However, for the most part I think I succeeded in my goals. Sure, a lot of guys like Martin, Freeman, Wendzel, and DeLoach have a ceiling of average regulars, but I feel more comfortable about them panning out than what the Nationals had in-system, and if Wallner’s power in 2023 sticks, he’ll be a dangerous hitter for years to come. Plus, the roster can be easily shuffled around to accommodate prospects like House and Wood if they show they are ready sooner than later. Additionally, the farm system had a net gain, as the loss of Brzykcy, Cate, and Quintana are more than outweighed by the addition of Wagner, Barber, Hankins, and Bracho. Overall, I’d argue that the team is looking better heading into the 2024 season than it did at the beginning of the offseason.

What do you think? How do you feel about this sim’s results? Any deals in particular that you liked or disliked? Let me know in the comments.

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