Welcome to the offseason edition of the Nationals Beat newsletter. This is your stop for the latest on and off the field, from news to exclusive player interviews and insights brought to you by MLB.com club reporter Jessica Camerato.
The 2023 Winter Meetings begin today in Nashville, Tenn., where the Nationals and the other 29 teams across the league are gathering to shape their rosters for next season.
The Nats are not expected to make major splashes with massive signings as they continue to develop young talents at the Major and Minor League levels, but deals still could get done. Last December, the Nationals signed right-hander Trevor Williams to a two-year deal shortly after Winter Meetings.
Additionally, the Nats can add to the roster through the Rule 5 Draft. They also will learn where they will select in the 2024 MLB Draft.
Here is your guide to the Winter Meetings this week:
Sunday: Hall of Fame Contemporary Era ballot results released (Cito Gaston, Davey Johnson, Jim Leyland, Ed Montague, Hank Peters, Lou Piniella, Joe West and Bill White)
Tuesday: Draft Lottery
Wednesday: Rule 5 Draft
The Nationals need a first baseman after they designated Dominic Smith for assignment last month. The team also is looking to add an offensive boost, and pitching remains on the priority list.
Potential trade candidates
Outfielder Lane Thomas and righty reliever Kyle Finnegan are potential trade candidates who do not become free agents until 2026. Thomas, 28, is coming off a breakout season in which he hit a team-leading 28 home runs and was a Gold Glove Award finalist in right field. Finnegan, 32, had a 3.76 ERA and ranked seventh in the National League with 28 saves.
• Here is one Winter Meetings goal for each team
Prospect to know
Eyes have been on outfielder Dylan Crews long before he was drafted second overall by the Nationals in July. Crews, 21, was named the Golden Spikes Award winner as he helped lead LSU to the College World Series. He is ranked as the Nats’ No. 1 prospect and No. 4 overall, per MLB Pipeline. Crews quickly advanced to Double-A last season, and he is projected to debut in 2024.
Rule 5 Draft
The Nationals protected left-handers DJ Herz (No. 16 prospect) and Mitchell Parker (No. 25) as well as right-handers Cole Henry (No. 18) and Zach Brzykcy (No. 28) from the Rule 5 Draft.
Teams pay $100,000 to select each player in the Major League part of the Rule 5 Draft. That player must be offered back to his former club for $50,000 if he does not stay on the 26-man roster for the entire season. Last year, the Nats selected right-hander Thaddeus Ward from the Red Sox with the No. 1 overall pick in the Rule 5 Draft.
How much will the Nationals add to their roster?
It remains to be seen if Washington fills the first-base vacancy via free agency or a trade, or if it moves designated hitter Joey Meneses to first and acquires a new DH.
The starting third-base role also will need to be determined. The Nats have options on the roster in Ildemaro Vargas, Carter Kieboom and Jake Alu, or they could look outside the organization. The same goes for the starting rotation, which could return all of its arms from last season or add via external options.
Nationals Park will host the team’s emerging talents in On Deck: Nationals Futures Game. The exhibition game between the Nats’ top prospects and current Major Leaguers will take place on March 26 at 12:05 p.m. ET. Players will be announced that month.
“We’re incredibly thankful for the continued support of our fans in D.C., and we can’t wait for them to get a look at some of the players who will make up our next championship-caliber roster,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “Players like James Wood, Dylan Crews, Brady House and Robert Hassell have certainly received a lot of attention, and I know that once our fans have the chance to see a full lineup of the young guys in our system, there will be even more of reason to be optimistic about where we’re headed.”
NEW ADDITION TO TOP PROSPECT RANKINGS
Outfielder Carlos Batista was named the Nats’ No. 30 prospect by MLB Pipeline after right-hander Roddery Muñoz was claimed off waivers by the Pirates on Friday.
Batista, 18, was signed by the Nationals in January as an international free agent. He slashed .232/.374/.352 with a 104 wRC+ in 43 games in the Dominican Summer League, where he was named a DSL midseason All-Star.
The MLB Pipeline team said of Batista:
“A right-handed hitter, Batista perhaps was at his best with his plate discipline against wild low-level pitching with a 17.4 percent walk rate (41st-best among 299 DSL qualifiers). That did come with some swing-and-miss (28.4 percent K rate), but the free passes give him something to build on. … A plus runner, Batista wasn’t afraid to press the issue on the basepaths, going 30-for-39 in stolen-base attempts during his age-17 season. Those 30 thefts ranked third in the DSL and were seventh-most among all Nats prospects regardless of level. … There’s the potential for a classic center-field/leadoff type here, but improving quality of contact at the plate will be a focus.”
This event is taking place at Nationals Park in the offseason:
• Through Dec. 31: Enchant
FORWARDED FROM A FRIEND? SUBSCRIBE NOW
To subscribe to Nationals Beat, visit this page and mark "Nationals Beat" from our newsletter list. Make sure you're following the Nationals or that they're checked as your favorite team.