Wednesday, 16 Jan 2019

What's next for the Nationals after Patrick Corbin signing and Mark Lerner comments?

Nationals senior owner Mark Lerner welcomes Patrick Corbin. (Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

Mike Rizzo, to the quiet presence of all-star catcher Yan Gomes, to Corbin Patrick, the reason dozens gathered at the ballpark on the doorstep of winter, where they watched the left-handed pitcher button up his Washington Nationals uniform for the first time.

But aside the excitement of Corbin's signing, what are you going to do? And is there still room for Bryce Harper in the team's blueprint?

Rizzo continued to separate the star from the Nationals' other moves, saying "The main goal of the owner is Mark Lerner, suggesting a different message, suggesting in a Friday Harper's return interview is unlikely.

"I do not really expect him to come back to this point. I think they've decided to move on, "Lerner said in an interview with 106.7 The Fan. "There's just so much money out there that he'd be leaving on the table. That's just not [agent Scott] Boras's M.O., to leave money on the table. "

"This was a special six years," Lerner continued, referencing Harper's transformation from a homegrown talent into a cornerstone franchise. "And he'll still be iconic in the city, when he comes in for another team. We'll do right by him and have a real ceremony. You can not be mad at him, and I do not think he'd be mad if we can not go any further. "

The Nationals have not let Harper's unresolved free agency delay their construction roster for 2019. They have actually done the opposite. Kyle Barraclough, the signing of Trevor Rosenthal, the signing of veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki, the trade for Gomes, and then this week's signing of Corbin to a six- year, $ 140 million contract, with Washington outbidding the Yankees New York and Philadelphia Phillies for the pitcher. Those moves are coming before baseball's annual winter meetings, which will be in Las Vegas next week, and signaled just how committed the Nationals are to competing of Harper's decision.

Harper turned down to 10-year, $ 300 million offer the Nationals in late September, and Lerner said in the radio interview Friday: "We told them, 'This is the best we can do.'" Lerner added that, given what Nationals have survived in the last month or so, it may be hard to bring back And if the Harper sweepstakes are tilting away from Washington, there is a chance the Nationals explores the market beyond their remaining needs.

Their bench still needs a left-handed first baseman who can provide power to a pinch-hitter and veteran spell Ryan Zimmerman. They could also pursue another arm in the bullpen. The starting rotation is strong at the top – with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Corbin – but a few more options could stir up competition for the final spot and sharpen what will be the team's most enticing strength should Harper move on.

"You know, we feel good about the team we have in place right now," Rizzo said with Corbin sitting to his right. "The roster is constructed in a good, coherent manner. We have a lot of strength and a lot of flexibility that we did not have last year. We've got players with options. That's important for us. But you never say you're done. If there's a deal that makes us feel better, we've always been aggressive. We've always had the resources to do those types of things. I do not consider us done at all. "

More rotation depth is the easiest need to pinpoint, especially after the Nationals feels starter Jefry Rodriguez to the Cleveland Indians for Gomes. If the season started now, the Nationals rotation would include Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, Tanner Roark and one of Joe Ross or Erick Fedde in the final spot. But Ross and Fedde are both coming off injury-shortened seasons. Ross returned from his 14-month recovery from Tommy John surgery in September, and his three starts made it hard to gauge how reliable he'll be moving forward. Fedde landed on the 60th day of the war with the risk of inflammation and, once back on the mound for the final stretch of the season, had trouble throwing deep into games.

The Nationals have already added to form all-star right-hander Henderson Alvarez on a minor-league deal, and could look to bring on other low-cost veterans to push Ross and Fedde in the back end of the rotation. It is also likely that they will need to get started, as well as other things that have been done.

"We feel good about it. We feel good about where we're at, "Rizzo said when he asked the Nationals for their 2019 rotation within the organization. "We've got our big three. We've got Tanner. We've got Fedde and Ross and then several depth guys beyond them. We feel as good as anybody can feel about their starting pitching. But we do not eliminate "adding more options.

If Harper does not return, the Nationals may be more likely to go after a second baseman who could help account for his production. Rizzo confirmed Friday that he had been in touch with the representation of D.J. LeMahieu, one of the best free agent second basemen, but couched that by saying the Nationals have reached out to around 40 available players. They have also expressed confidence in some combination of Howie Kendrick and Wilmer Difo at this position, and might not want to give a player like LeMahieu has a multiyear deal given that a top prospect Carter Kieboom, a shortstop by trade .

Corbin's introduction was over by 1 p.m. on Friday, and the news conference room emptied ounce was ushered to more interviews. What was left were two monitors blaring the day's second-most important message Lerner's radio comments surfaced: "WELCOME TO D.C. PATRICK CORBIN!"

Gomes, Scherzer, Strasburg, and Zimmerman, who have come to the ballpark to welcome their new teammate, for the rest of the offseason. Rizzo 's trip to Vegas drew closer. It's a reminder of how fast the Nationals are moving, and how quickly they're still pivoting to whatever's next.

Read more on the Nationals:

Ryan Zimmerman: 'I do not think it's any secret I'd like to finish' career with Nationals

For Dave Martinez to see the light, it'll come down to the little things

Anthony Rendon 'up for' further discussing long-term extension with Nationals

Howie Kendrick, possible second base solution, hopes to be ready for spring training

The Yan Gomes trade gives the Nationals two good catchers. Now, they just need a plan.


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