2021 Washington Nationals: Can We Just Forget 2020?

JimRiceHOFer

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Jul 6, 2007
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Updated roster/moves for the 2021 Nationals:

Starting Lineup:
C - Yan Gomes
1B - Josh Bell
2B - Josh Harrison
SS - Trea Turner
3B - Starlin Castro
LF - Kyle Schwarber
CF - Victor Robles
RF - Juan Soto

Bench: Andrew Stevenson, Ryan Zimmerman, Alex Avila, Hernan Perez, Jordy Mercer

Starters:
SP - Max Scherzer
SP - Stephen Strasburg
SP - Patrick Corbin
SP - Jon Lester
SP - Joe Ross

Closer - Brad Hand

Bullpen - Daniel Hudson, Will Harris, Tanner Rainey, Wander Suero, Kyle Finnegan, Luis Avilan, Austin Voth, Erick Fedde

Coaching Staff:
Dave Martinez - Manager
Jim Hickey - Pitching Coach
Randy Knorr- 1st Base Coach
Bob Henley - 3rd Base Coach
Tim Bogar- Bench Coach
Kevin Long - Hitting Coach
Henry Blanco - Bullpen Coach
Pat Roessler - Assistant Hitting Coach

Minors Shuttle/Backups/DL:
P - Mario Sanchez, Aaron Barrett, Austen Williams, Paolo Espino, Seth Romero, Steven Fuentes, Sterling Sharp, Sam Clay,
Ben Braymer, Javy Guerra, Kyle McGowin, Rogelio Armenteros, Ryne Harper
OF - Carlos Tocci, , Gerardo Parra, Yadiel Hernandez
IF - Jake Noll, Adrian Sanchez (DL), Emilio Bonifacio, Carter Kieboom, Luis Garcia, Humberto Arteaga, Yasel Antuna
C - Wellington Castillo, Blake Swihart, Raudy Read, Tres Barrera, Jonathan LuCroy

Spring Training Non-Roster Invitees:
Luis Avilan
Emilio Bonifacio
Hernan Perez
Gerardo Parra
Javy Guerra
Jordy Mercer
Yasmany Tomás
Jeremy Jefress
Aaron Barrett
T.J. McFarland

Departures:
Michael Taylor - signed with the Royals
Adam Eaton - signed with White Sox
Howie Kendrick - retired
James Borque - signed with White Sox
Wil Crowe - traded to Pittsburgh
Eric Thames - signed with Yomuri Giants
Wilmer Difo -signed with Pirates
Kurt Suzuki - signed with Angels
Sean Doolittle - signed with Reds
Asdrubal Cabrera - signed with Diamondbacks
Brock Holt - signed with Rangers
Roenis Elias - signed with Mariners
Yasmany Tomas - Released
TJ McFarland - Released
Jeremy Jeffress - Released

Arrivals:
Sam Clay - signed as a free agent (Minn.)
Josh Bell - trade with Pittsburgh
Kyle Schwarber - signed as a free agent (ChC)
Luis Avilan - signed to a Minor League deal
Jon Lester - signed as a free agent (ChC)
Wellington Castillo - re-signed to a Minor League deal
Ryan Zimmerman - re-signed for 1 year
Emilio Bonifacio - re-signed to a Minor League deal
Hernan Perez - signed to a Minor League deal
Brad Hand - signed as a free agent (Cle)
Blake Swihart - signed to a Minor League deal
Alex Avila - signed as a free agent (Minn)
Gerardo Parra - signed to a Minor League deal
Jordy Mercer - signed to a Minor League deal
Humberto Arteaga - signed to a Minor League deal
Jeremy Jefress - signed to a Minor League deal
Jonathan LuCroy - signed to a Minor League deal
 
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Petey Bienel

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Nats sign LHP Sam Clay to a major league contract out of the Twins system.

Clay arrives after spending seven years in the Minnesota Twins’ system. He was part of their 60-player pool in 2020. He became a free agent in early October. In 2019, when he last faced opposing batters, Clay led all of minor league baseball in groundball rate. He was one of 11 pitchers to log 60 or more innings and not allow a home run. He has yielded only six homers in 405⅓ innings that span his 187 career appearances. He said he has allowed just one homer as a reliever since 2013.

Clay is a sinker-heavy pitcher who throws that pitch, a slider and a change-up. He says he can go to any pitch in any count and has never been considered a lefty-lefty specialist. His success rides on whether he can locate his sinker low in the zone and use it to get groundballs.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2020/11/18/nationals-sign-sam-clay/
 

sean1562

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Kieboom and Robles really need to take leaps forward if this team is gonna be any good next year. If they dont't, may be time to sell some pieces off at the deadline.
 

Petey Bienel

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Kieboom and Robles really need to take leaps forward if this team is gonna be any good next year. If they dont't, may be time to sell some pieces off at the deadline.
Robles I don't think could handle the weight he put on. They call it "muscle." 15 pounds of it. Whatever it was, his D dropped off and he started missing pitches in the strike zone. His contact on swings on strikes and overall dropped about 5% per both ways Fangraphs tracks it. I'll settle for what he did his rookie year offensively and strong (not supernatural) defense. IF the weight gain was really working out after the end of the spring (as Martinez says), then maybe it really was too quick to adjust to. By the way, Saturday MLB.com reported he sprained his ankle in the DR winter league; has missed 3 games and is day-to-day.

Kieboom? At least his D improved over time. They rushed him in 2019 when Turner was hurt, but last year, how do you have an ISO of .010 over 120 PAs? I know cost-controlled slightly above average players are valuable, but they actually have to play that way when they are cheap, which means 2021-22 for him.

As for deadline deals breaking them up, I would have sold in May 2019 :)
 

JimRiceHOFer

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Nationals add Josh Bell for 1B

https://www.mlb.com/nationals/news/josh-bell-deal-with-nationals-pirates
The Nats addressed their vacancy at first base on Thursday by acquiring the switch-hitting Bell from the Pirates. In exchange, Washington sent right-handers Wil Crowe, who was ranked by MLB Pipeline as its No. 3 prospect, and Eddy Yean, who was its No. 6 prospect, to Pittsburgh.

“Josh was definitely the trade option that we were looking at most intently,” general manager Mike Rizzo said Saturday on an introductory Zoom call, adding, “We think this is a big upgrade for us, [the] middle-of-the-lineup presence that we have been looking for.”

Bell, 28, is entering his sixth Major League season. Last year, he posted a .226/.305/.364 slash line with a .669 OPS and eight home runs in 57 games. He is looking to return to his form of 2019, when he was an All-Star and ranked in the top 10 among National League players in RBIs (116, sixth), OPS+ (142, seventh), doubles (37, eighth), homers (37, ninth), slugging (.569, ninth) and OPS (.936, 10th).
 

sean1562

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There is probably some desire to have Ryan Zimmerman play one more year. He has been pretty bad over the last few years but he still crushes LHP. Limited role in a platoon with Bell seems to be the play here.
 

loshjott

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There is probably some desire to have Ryan Zimmerman play one more year. He has been pretty bad over the last few years but he still crushes LHP. Limited role in a platoon with Bell seems to be the play here.
Especially with Howie Kendrick's somewhat unexpected retirement. They need a RH bat to platoon or come off the bench.
 

Petey Bienel

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Feb 8, 2020
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A Jesse Dougherty article on how the Nats don't have Jackson Rutledge or Cade Cavalli available in trade has a kind of jaw-dropping recap of the pitching they've dealt in the past 5 years or so.

"Giolito and Dunning, by contrast, were traded to the Chicago White Sox for Adam Eaton in 2016. Reynaldo López, another young arm, was included in that deal. Jesús Luzardo, another top pitching prospect, headlined a trade package for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson in 2017. And just last week, Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean — a pair of consensus top-10 prospects for Washington — were sent to Pittsburgh in exchange for first baseman Josh Bell."
https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2020/12/31/jackson-rutledge-nationals-future/
There was also the July 2016 trade of Felipe Vazquez (Rivero) for Mark Melancon. Maybe best not to mention him.

Dougherty also reports that they have signed Javy Guerra and Welington Castillo to minor league contracts, but I don't see an announcement from the Nationals about this. https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2020/12/21/nationals-javy-guerra-welington-castillo/
 

JimRiceHOFer

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Eric Thames signs with Yomuri Giants

https://www.nbcsports.com/washington/nationals/former-nationals-1b-eric-thames-signs-japans-yomiuri-giants
Thames, 34, signed a one-year, $4 million deal with Washington last offseason that included a mutual option for 2021. However, he hit just .203 with three home runs and 12 RBIs in 41 games and appeared in only two contests the final week of the season as the Nationals started leaning on Brock Holt at first base instead. The Nationals declined their side of Thames’s mutual option shortly after the World Series, making him a free agent.
 

jose melendez

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Thames was a huge star in Korea. He was on the Masked Singer and everything. I have no idea if that translates to Japan.... probably depends entirely on how well he plays.
 

Petey Bienel

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Feb 8, 2020
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Kyle Schwarber to the Nats for 1 year, $10MM, pending physical, per multiple sources.
https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2021/01/nationals-to-sign-kyle-schwarber.html
Likely means Soto plays right and Schwarber plays left. I'm surprised that he grades out as average in left per UZR. Negative in terms of some other measures. I'm surprised the article says the Nats lineup "still leaned mostly towards right-handed hitters" even after Bell. I see now Schwarber, Bell, Ted Williams Soto, and possibly Garcia as left handed regulars, v. Turner, Robles, mostly Gomes, probably Castro, and possibly Kieboom as right-handed hitters. I guess that's right-handed hitters in terms of quantity, not quality. Soto hits everything, so I guess Soto alone was not going to be enough to discourage throwing righties against lesser hitters. Both Schwarber and Bell have bad platoon splits. Maybe the Nats will still see a lot of RHP and Schwarber / Bell will feast.
 
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JimRiceHOFer

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Nats add Luis Avilan on a Minor League Deal

https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2020/12/nationals-sign-luis-avilan-to-minors-deal.html#:~:text=The Nationals have signed left,of the Washington Post confirms.

The Nationals are the fourth NL East organization for the well-traveled Avilan, who has posted quality numbers in the majors since his career began with the Braves in 2012. The 31-year-old owns a 3.30 ERA/3.47 FIP with 8.12 K/9, 3.53 BB/9, 0.57 HR/9 and a 50.3 percent groundball rate across 349 innings, though his production dipped during the previous two seasons in New York.
 

JimRiceHOFer

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Nats sign Wellington Castillo to a minor-league contract

https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2020/12/nationals-sign-welington-castillo-to-minor-league-contract.html
This is the second straight winter in which Castillo has inked a minors deal with the Nationals, though he didn’t play at all last year after opting out over COVID-19 concerns. He’ll now vie for a spot on a Nationals team that has just one proven catcher in Yan Gomes. Tres Barrera, who has two major league plate appearances on his resume, is the only other catcher on the team’s 40-man roster.
 

JimRiceHOFer

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Nats sign Ryan Zimmerman, 1 year, $1 million

https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2021/01/nationals-re-sign-ryan-zimmerman.html
The Nationals are bringing back longtime cornerstone Ryan Zimmerman on a one-year deal worth $1MM, reports USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (Twitter link).

Zimmerman, though, could certainly form a platoon with the switch-hitting Bell, who has historically been much better from the left side of the dish. Bell is a career .271/.360/.485 hitter as a lefty but just a .232/.315/.410 batter from the right side of the dish. Zimmerman, meanwhile, has clobbered lefties throughout his 15-year MLB career: .311/.390/.527.
 

JimRiceHOFer

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Nats get a Helping Hand

https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2021/01/nationals-closing-in-on-deal-with-brad-hand.html
Hand, 30, has been one of the league’s best relievers over the past five seasons. He broke out with the Padres in 2016 immediately after being claimed off waivers from the Marlins. San Diego traded him to the Indians midway through the 2018 season, where he continued to shine. In two-plus seasons in Cleveland, Hand pitched to a 2.78 ERA over 107 relief innings with a stellar combination of strikeouts (34.8%) and walks (7.9%).
 

JimRiceHOFer

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Nats sign Blake Swihart to a minor-league deal

https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2021/01/nationals-sign-blake-swihart-catcher.html
Swihart has appeared in 234 big league games and tallied 696 plate appearances, but the result is a lackluster .243/.301/.355 batting line that falls well shy of expectations for a prospect whose offensive potential was once so heralded. While catcher has been his most frequent position in the Majors (964 innings), Swihart has seen more time in left field and at first base over the past few seasons than he has behind the plate.
 

Petey Bienel

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behind Gomes right now, the Nats have 2 minor leaguers who have been busted for PEDs (Tres Barrera on the 40 man, Raudy Read with invite), Welington Castillo, and Swihart.
 

JimRiceHOFer

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Nats sign another catcher, Alex Avila

https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2021/01/nationals-to-sign-alex-avila.html
Washington will be the sixth major league team for Avila, who will turn 34 on Friday. Most of Avila’s career has been spent in Detroit, which Jon Heyman of MLB Network notes vied for a reunion this offseason, but he was a member of the Twins last season. Avila has typically been known for logging low batting averages and high on-base percentages, and he did just that in Minnesota, with which he batted .184/.355/.286 with one home run in 62 plate appearances. The total lack of power was out of the norm for Avila, who has posted a .394 slugging percentage and swatted 104 homers across 3,527 trips to the plate in the majors.
 

JimRiceHOFer

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"Baby Shark" is Back

https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2021/02/nationals-sign-gerardo-parra-to-minor-league-contract.html
The Nationals have signed outfielder Gerardo Parra to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training, according to Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. He’ll earn a $1MM salary if he makes the majors, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets.

Parra has appeared with seven teams in the majors since debuting in 2009. He was most recently a member of the Nationals and Giants in 2019, when he batted .234/.293/.391 with nine home runs and eight stolen bases in 301 plate appearances. Parra became a fan favorite in Washington that year for his “Baby Shark” theme when he came to the plate. The Nationals, of course, won the World Series that season, though Parra hasn’t been in the majors since then. He spent last year with the Yomiuri Giants of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball.
 

JimRiceHOFer

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Nats add Jordy Mercer to IF Depth

https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2021/02/nationals-sign-jordy-mercer.html
Mercer, 34, was the Pirates’ primary shortstop from 2013-18, hitting at a combined .257/.317/.383 in 2928 plate appearances across that six-year stretch. He and his Pittsburgh double-play partner, Josh Harrison, hit free agency after the 2018 season and both signed with the Tigers that year. Both missed time due to injury, but Mercer returned late in the year and went on a torrid hot streak, finishing out the year with an overall .270/.310/.438 slash through 271 plate appearances.
 

JimRiceHOFer

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Jeremy Jefress signs a minor-league deal, with a Spring Training invite

https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2021/02/nationals-to-sign-jeremy-jeffress-to-minors-deal.html?fbclid=IwAR3PS-VQTCHASEaX1F0IZOhCXovI9h-tXXM59dNKhZoVAXL0FmAzDW3S6L4
Jeffress has been an effective reliever for most of his 11 seasons in the majors, and was an All-Star as recently as the 2018 season when pitching for the Brewers. He struggled in 2019, however, posting a 5.02 ERA with a 48.4% grounder rate that marked the only time the groundball specialist had fallen under the 50% threshold over a full season.
 

JimRiceHOFer

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behind Gomes right now, the Nats have 2 minor leaguers who have been busted for PEDs (Tres Barrera on the 40 man, Raudy Read with invite), Welington Castillo, and Swihart.
Nats Catcher situation now has the following depth:

Yan Gomes
Alex Avila
Wellington Castillo
Blake Swihart
Raudy Read
Tres Barrera
 

Petey Bienel

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Nats Catcher situation now has the following depth:

Yan Gomes
Alex Avila
Wellington Castillo
Blake Swihart
Raudy Read
Tres Barrera
I liked the Avila signing because the Nats seemed very vulnerable to righty starters last season. Gomes has trouble with righties over his career and recently, so this has the potential to be a nice offensive platoon. That depends a bit on whether Davey wants to line up pitchers with catchers or not. Avila has handled Corbin, who Martinez used to line up with Gomes almost exclusively. Having two catchers who can both handle him is nice.

how much worse was it against RHP vs LHP? .845 OPS, .357 wOBA, 121 wRC+ vs. .741 OPS, .320 wOBA, 97 wRC+. I can't quite lay my hands on it at Fangraphs or Baseball Reference, but I recall the numbers were even more split comparing vs righty and vs lefty starters. When you think about it, Soto kills everybody, and then you had Thames, Eaton, and Garcia among the regulars as lefty batters, so it makes sense. Also explains pickups like Bell and Schwarber and Avila.

Of all the moves so far, the one that I shake my head at most is the Schwarber signing, in light of the Pederson and Rosario contracts. All 3 of those are 1 year deals, and I don't see why Schwarber is the one who got $10 million (plus an option) while the others are worth only $7 million and $8 million relative to Schwarber. I can sort of understand not getting into the Brantley bidding due to years and age (although at $16 million, he would have fit under the CBT and left the typical $10 million the Nats like to be at going into the season), but, for the money Pederson got, they might have been able to sign Pederson and Duvall ($12 million total) and still left them $14 million below the threshold.

Makes me wonder if they are leaving money to try to sign Turner long term.
 

JimRiceHOFer

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Nats option Kieboom (and others) to AAA

The Nationals selected veterans Jordy Mercer and Hernán Pérez to the Major League roster on Saturday, and both -- along with utility man Josh Harrison -- could play second or third.

Optioned to AAA/Minors:
Carter Kieboom
Luis Garcia
Sam Clay
Kyle McGowin
Yadiel Hernandez
Aaron Barrett
Paolo Espino
Javy Guerra
Todd Peterson
Wellington Castillo
Brandon Snyder
Blake Swihart
Adrian Sanchez
Gerardo Parra
Carlos Tocci

DFA'd
Jake Noll

Released:
TJ McFarland
Yasmany Tomas

https://www.mlb.com/nationals/news/carter-kieboom-optioned-jordy-mercer-hernan-perez-make-nationals
 

Petey Bienel

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With both Jordy Mercer and Hernan Perez being added to the roster and Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia being sent down, the infield, catcher, outfield and rotation look set barring trade. At least at the start of the year, it'll be Castro at 2nd, Harrison at 3rd, with a Bell / Zimmerman platoon at 1st and Turner at SS. 4th outfielder will be Stevenson (as I was writing this, I see Gerardo Parra was assigned to the minor league camp). Rotation looks set with everyone shaking off rust and injury scares -Scherzer, Corbin, Strasburg, Lester, and Joe Ross.

Wil Harris had a scare with a reported blood clot in his arm, but further examination by specialist rules that out as the cause of hand numbness. Assuming he is going to need a bit of time to get ready at the alternate site in Fredericksburg at the start of the year, that means 5 out of the 6 locks for the bullpen will be on the active roster (Hand, Hudson, Rainey, Suero, Finnegan). Nats got dealt a surprise when an arbitrator rules the Erick Fedde, a 5th starter / long man candidate, did not have an option this year, so there is something of a squeeze at the back of the bullpen. Luis Avilan has looked good and would be a 2d lefty option, but would need to be added to the 40 man roster. They sent down Sam Clay, who had looked good and would have been another 2d lefty option. It's possible that both Fedde and Austin Voth (another 5th starter candidate) get kept as multi-inning relievers along with Avilan, but that leaves no space for Javy Guerra (who I see has been sent to the minor league camp), and of course there's a squeeze coming when Harris is ready.

It looks like there's potential for a deal to open up some roster spots. Specifically, Fedde would relieve the bullpen squeeze and open a 40 man roster spot for Avilan or Guerra. It's also possible that with Kyle McGowin, Voth, Ben Braymer as the sort of fungible arms that could serve the same role, Fedde could get released. Maybe a DFA candidate?

Other notable things about the spring include Josh Bell saying he's been trying to copy Soto some. Good choice :) He's been hitting shots and going the opposite way as a lefty. The other thing worth mentioning is that, in the fun spring statistical aberrations department, Yadiel Hernandez's 30 AB line was .467 / .500 / .700. He was on the FG 2019 Ken Phelps All Stars, starting in RF with Rusney in LF. He's 33, hits lefty, and from Cuba. Always hit in the minors. Unlike Rusney, there's no CBT hit calling him up and he's actually on the 40 man roster. Debuted last year and made sure there was a good breeze on those late summer muggy nights in DC, with 12 Ks in 28 PAs. Per his wiki, he is the oldest player to hit a walk off for his first home run. He's somewhat redundant with Stevenson on the roster and Parra looking for a spot.
 
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Petey Bienel

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4 positives, 5 more in quarantine due to close contacts. Last time the team was together was Monday. While MLB rules allow close contacts back 7 days after contact with a negative test at least 5 days after the contact, DC rules require 10 days. (per Zuckerman / MASN - https://www.masnsports.com/nationals-pastime/2021/04/full-mets-series-postponed-as-nats-await-more-results.html ). As of Friday, there's not been additional positives, and the team is testing daily. Assuming no additional positives, then the question will be whether DC will yield to MLB so that the Braves series can be played.

Minimal clues as to who the 4 players are. Scherzer flew up separately from the team so he likely missed the close contact. Previously, the Washington Post beat reporter tweeted that the 4 initial call ups were a c (Tres Barrera), an infielder (Luis Garcia), a lefty reliever (Sam Clay), and an outfielder (Yadiel Henandez). https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2021/04/mets-nationals-postponed-covid-19.html. IIRC, Robles had Covid last year, Soto tested positive once but may have been a false positive.
 

JimRiceHOFer

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Nats sign Jonathan LuCroy to a MiLB deal

https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2021/04/nationals-to-sign-jonathan-lucroy.html

A two-time All-Star in his heyday with the Brewers, Lucroy’s production has fallen off in recent years, as he has hit only .237/.297/.338 over 782 plate appearances with four different organizations since the start of the 2018 season. If Lucroy sees any time on Washington’s active roster, the Nats will become his eighth different franchise, and 2021 will be Lucroy’s 12th Major League season.
 

Petey Bienel

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Feb 8, 2020
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FWIW, Zuckerman (MASN) has been observing who is / is not on the field at today's practice. In addition to the 4 previously identified (Schwarber, Lester, Harrison, and Avila), the missing include Trea Turner, Josh Bell, Patrick Corbin, Yan Gomes, Brad Hand, and Jordy Mercer. Additional call ups include Raudy Read (C), Kyle McGowin (multi-inning reliever), Adrian Sanchez (AAAA middle infielder), and Cody Wilson (OF). With Castillo hurt, this explains the Lucroy signing.

https://www.masnsports.com/nationals-pastime/2021/04/nationals-prepared-to-be-without-five-regulars-in-opener.html
 

JimRiceHOFer

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Nats also recalled the following players from their Alternate Training Site for today's game:

Carter Kieboom
Luis Garcia
Tres Barrera
Yadiel Hernandez
Kyle McGowin
Cody Wilson
Jonathan LuCroy
Ryne Harper
Sam Clay
 

Petey Bienel

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Feb 8, 2020
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All players cleared now. Lester is throwing at the alternate site (Fredericksburg) and Harrison, Schwarber, and Bell are in the lineup tonight. Cards and MLB arranged for most of the team to get shots in St Louis because apparently the rules are easier their than DC.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2021/04/12/washington-nationals-vaccinated/


Lucroy DFA'd, but apparently gets service credit to reach his 10 year service time.
https://www.masnsports.com/nationals-pastime/2021/04/bell-schwarber-and-harrison-activated-lucroy-designated.html