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Last weekend, the Nationals added another power hitter to the middle of the lineup when they signed slugger Kyle Schwarber to a one-year deal.
“I really like it,” Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said of the additions in an MLB Network Radio interview on Sunday.
“We got an early Christmas gift with Josh Bell and now we just added Schwarber, so our lineup is looking good.”
While bolstering the offense was the No. 1 priority this winter, and the first thing that Rizzo’s crew jumped on, after attacking what he described as the “fringes” of the roster with some less splashy moves, the GM in D.C. said in mid-December that the club would consider any rotation or bullpen additions that would improve the team’s chances of competing in 2021, two years after a pitching-first club helped them win the World Series.
“It’s no secret that we’re a pitching-oriented team,” Rizzo explained.
“We’ve got three great strong starting pitchers coming back,” with righties Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, and lefty Patrick Corbin up top.
“We’ve got a bullpen that we feel is built with a lot of depth and versatility. We’ve got some good veteran guys back there and some good young arms, more on the come, so we felt that our best bet would be to kind of surround the guys we have in the middle of the lineup already with some more bats and make offensive production a little bit more of a priority this offseason.”
But that doesn’t mean they won’t address pitching needs in the rotation and bullpen after adding pitchers like Sam Clay, Joan Adon, Steven Fuentes, Rogelio Armenteros, Matthew Merrill, and Luis Avilán to the mix.
Behind the top three rotation arms are starters like Joe Ross, (who opted out of pitching in the 60-game COVID campaign last season but is going to play this time, as of now), Austin Voth, and Erick Fedde, both of whom struggled in an odd season for everyone in 2020, and, in Rizzo’s assessment, some of the younger prospects who spent last summer working in Fredericksburg, Virginia, trying to continue progressing at the club’s Alternate Training Site as part of the 60-Player pool for the 60-game season.
Will the Nationals add a fourth or fifth starter-type and have Ross fill out the rotation?
Will they stick with Ross, Voth, Fedde, and look for prospects like Jackson Rutledge or Cade Cavalli to fill out their starting mix or try to add a back end starter via trade or free agency?
“We’re not sure right now,” Rizzo said when asked specifically about Ross’s role in the 2021 rotation, the starting mix in general, and potential additions.
“We’ve got a couple of different ways to go, it’s all about asset allocation and I think that the moves that we do early will dictate that rotation move. I have confidence in the depth that we’ve built here as far as back end starters, you know, with kind of an addition of Joe Ross this year and Voth and Fedde, and then those young kids that we had seen in Fredericksburg all season and then in Instructional League — was extremely exciting to see those guys pitch. We’ve seen several guys that are going to help us this year in the big leagues that maybe aren’t household names by the prospects experts, but we saw a handful of guys that are close to impacting the big league roster soon.”