We can talk all we want about certain players that teams should pick up in free agency that will make a difference, but sometimes teams just financially can’t afford to make a move. The Washington Nationals, however, are not one of those teams.
According to Baseball Reference, the Nationals will have roughly $105.4 million on the books. The website estimates that $80.9 million will be tied up in contracts, $21 million will go to arbitration costs and $3.5 million will go toward filling out the rest of the roster. The luxury tax in 2014 is set at $189 million, and the Nationals will be $83.6 million under that. With all of that wiggle room, we could see them make some great additions to the already impressive roster.
My colleague Chris Gamble wrote an intriguing piece on the Nationals needing a left-handed reliever. He threw out names like Boone Logan, J.P. Howell and Oliver Perez. With the cap space that the Nationals will have, they can certainly go after one of those pitchers and still have plenty of space to fill possibly their greatest need on the diamond.
At second base, there is a hole in the near future. There has been speculation that Adam LaRoche could be on his way out the door this year and that Ryan Zimmerman would take over at first base. The Nationals would likely move current second baseman Anthony Rendon over to third, which is his primary position. After all, the Nationals drafted Rendon with the hopes that he would be able to take over for Zimmerman one day. That day may be coming very soon.
That would then leave a hole at second base. In the farm system, the Nationals don’t really have a player that can fill that void. Possibly their best in-house replacement would be Steve Lombardozzi, but he doesn’t hit well enough to be an everyday player. On the free agent market, you’ll find Robinson Cano, Chase Utley, Brian Roberts and Nick Punto, just to name a few.
If the Nationals decide they want to go and get one of those players, they certainly will have the space do it. General manager Mike Rizzo has done a pretty impressive job putting together a team of young superstars at such a low annual cost. If he wants to attack the market like he did when he signed Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million contract in 2011, he’s got the ability to do it.
There aren’t very many things that need to be addressed on the Washington Nationals outside of the bullpen, the vacant manager position and the possible hole forming at second base. If the Rizzo wants to make a splash and bring in some bona fide talent, he’s got the deep pockets to make that happen.