By: Jason Smith
PLAY BALL! Two simple words that I just cannot WAIT to hear! Those two words mean spring is here and baseball season is upon us! This season my goal is to bring you weekly recaps of the Washington Nationals and more! This team, like most other D.C. sports teams, does a great job of keeping me on edge all season just to let me down in the end. Will the 2018 Nationals season end the infamous “DC Sports Curse”, or will it just be another disappointment like we are all used to?
The Nationals didn’t wait long to make a big headline move this off-season when they fired manager Dusty Baker. This move was met with a lot of disbelief, myself included, especially because they were reported to have been in talks for an extension. Whatever the reason, Owner Ted Lerner and GM Mike Rizzo decided it would be best for the club to part ways with Baker. In comes Dave Martinez. Martinez comes from the Chicago Cubs where he worked as the bench coach for Joe Maddon. Martinez has worked with Maddon for the last decade and has had the opportunity to learn from one of the best coach’s in recent history. One thing I believe that helped Martinez land the job, is that he is an old school coach who is well respected by his peers and players, but he also has an open mind to the new school, analytical approach. Martinez has never managed a team before, including the minors, so everything we see this year from him will be new for us all.
In terms of player acquisitions, the Nationals remained fairly quiet this offseason. They re-signed Brandon Kintzler and Howie Kendrick while adding bench depth with Matt Adams. None of those moves will blow you away, but all are extremely solid. Kintzler helps sure up a weak bullpen from the beginning of last season. The 7th, 8th, and 9th innings will be saved for Kintzler, Ryan Madson, and Sean Doolittle, a massive upgrade from Matt Albers, Shawn Kelley, and Koda Glover. Kendrick came in last year and did everything he was asked; he is a solid defensive utility player and a tough out at the plate. Matt Adams will replace Adam Lind on the bench. In my opinion they are basically the same player except Adams is almost 5 years younger. The biggest addition to the Nationals roster for the 2018 season is the player most people seem to forget about, Adam Eaton. Eaton will come in a play solid defense for us and help set the table at the top of our lineup. Losing Eaton last year hurt, and I really believe it affected the Nationals in the post season.
The Nationals will still put out an extremely competitive lineup along with a top-heavy rotation that should allow them to compete for another NL East Division title. They still have a few holes in their lineup that I would love to see them fill before the season begins. An upgrade at catcher is my number one priority. Matt Wieters just doesn’t cut it anymore. Weiters is still a decent defensive catcher, but that .225 batting average just doesn’t make up for it. There have been rumors that the Nationals are talking to the Miami Marlins about J.T. Realmuto, a 26-year old catcher who hit .280 last season. The hold-up in the trade talks is that the Nationals do not seem interested in trading top prospect Victor Robles or Juan Soto, and I can’t say that I blame them. Adding a 5th starter (currently AJ Cole) and another arm or two to the bullpen are holes I would like to see the Nationals fill before Opening Day, but I believe those are minor necessities compared to the catcher position.
All in all I believe we are lined up for another exciting baseball season from the Washington Nationals and I cannot wait to get back out to the ballpark! I will be attending Spring Training for the first time this year and will get to see the Nationals take on the defending World Series Champion, Houston Astros. I’m looking forward to recapping this upcoming Nationals season for the Nuts and Bolts Sports team and hope you guys enjoy it as well!