Wind: 4.61 m/h
Washington’s roster construction has often been criticized this season, as they don’t have a proven left-handed specialist out of the bullpen, they only have one true backup infielder (aside from Ryan Zimmerman, who can only play one spot), and four of their five outfielders are left-handed. Few of them, it should be noted, are hitting well.
They recently designated for assignment Hernan Perez - who checked off two of the boxes above - but he was unproductive in the batter’s box in his short time with the Nats. His pitching appearances, however, were entertaining.
In cutting ties with Perez, the Nationals opened up a spot on their 40-man roster. They aren’t required to fill it, but it does present them with an interesting opportunity to fill one of their glaring voids.
The option to promote someone from within is always available, but truthfully, there isn’t a worthy candidate. The few players they could recall from the minor leagues are already on the 40-man roster, anyway.
Strictly in terms of offense, Jonathan Lucroy is still available and could provide some value. However, as a third catcher, he doesn’t fix any of the larger roster conundrums.
Albert Pujols was also recently designated for assignment by the Angels, but the last thing the Nationals need is another first baseman. There are some other players in “DFA limbo” that present some intrigue, though. Left-handed reliever Brandon Waddell was chiefly among them as recently as early Saturday afternoon, but the Orioles beat the Nationals to the punch, claiming him from the Twins and optioning him to AAA Norfolk.
Although the Nationals have no need for a right-handed reliever, Nate Jones has been a very effective one. Even this season, he had posted a 3.48 ERA for the Braves. It’s somewhat unclear why they cut ties with him, aside from his command becoming a bit spotty. Nonetheless, no team can ever have too many bullpen arms, and they could do far worse than someone with a 3.32 career ERA across more than 300 innings.
In a perfect world, Gamel would be right-handed, but he still merits some attention. The 28-year-old outfielder has roughly been a league-average hitter over 1,253 plate appearances – which is better than Andrew Stevenson – and can play all three outfield positions. He also holds a minor league option if needed, although it’s unclear whether he would accept such an assignment, especially considering the established players he would likely be forced to sit behind at the big league level.
It’s much the same story for Schebler as it is for Gamel, except he’s two years older with no minor league options. However, he’s also a slightly better hitter and hadn’t scuffled quite as badly to start this season as Gamel has.
Yoenis Cespedes and Matt Kemp are among the most notable right-handed outfielders who are available on the free agent market, but both are in their mid-30s with injury histories and price tags – not to mention egos – that likely make them undesirable.
Again, there is no absolute need to fill this vacancy right now, but it could be an eye-opening opportunity for a team who’s currently in last place in its division – albeit by a thin margin.
Don’t be surprised if the Nats make a move for someone in the near future.