Diving into the depths: Washington Nationals

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.
Washington Nationals
Rotation
1. John Lannan
2. Jason Marquis
3. Scott Olsen
4. Miguel Batista
5. Craig Stammen
6. Ross Detwiler
7. Shairon Martis
8. Garrett Mock
9. Stephen Strasburg
10. Collin Balester
11. J.D. Martin
12. Matt Chico
13. Marco Estrada
14. Aaron Thompson
Not that it’s saying much, but I liked it better before the Batista addition. The Nationals have indicated that he was signed for the rotation, but Stammen and especially Detwiler are better bets.
Bullpen
1. Matt Capps
2. Tyler Clippard
3. Sean Burnett
4. Brian Bruney
5. Tyler Walker
6. Eddie Guardado
7. Garrett Mock
8. Jason Bergmann
9. Miguel Batista
10. Craig Stammen
11. Logan Kensing
12. Doug Slaten
13. Ryan Speier
14. Drew Storen
15. Joel Peralta
16. Collin Balester
17. Marco Estrada
18. Victor Garate
19. Luis Atilano
20. Jesse English
The bullpen is an even bigger mess. Storen will eventually work his way up, but like Strasburg, he seems destined to open the season in the minors. I don’t have a lot of faith in Bruney, Walker or Guardado, but they’ll have to pitch their way off the team in camp. The Triple-A pen might be better than the major league pen at the start of the season.


Catcher
1. Jesus Flores
2. Ivan Rodriguez
3. Wil Nieves
4. Jamie Burke
First base
1. Adam Dunn
2. Mike Morse
3. Chris Duncan
4. Josh Whitesell
Second base
1. Cristian Guzman
2. Alberto Gonzalez
3. Willie Harris
4. Eric Bruntlett
5. Pete Orr
Third base
1. Ryan Zimmerman
2. Eric Bruntlett
3. Mike Morse
4. Pete Orr
Shortstop
1. Ian Desmond
2. Cristian Guzman
3. Alberto Gonzalez
The Nationals want Orlando Hudson for second base, so the depth chart could be shaken up again. There’s also been talk of signing a first baseman and returning Dunn to the outfield, though I don’t think that’s going to materialize. The only spot here that’s completely set is third base. I’m listing Flores ahead of Rodriguez, but much of that will depend on how he looks in spring training as he continues his recovery from shoulder surgery.
Left field
1. Josh Willingham
2. Willie Harris
3. Justin Maxwell
4. Chris Duncan
5. Roger Bernadina
6. Jerry Owens
Center field
1. Nyjer Morgan
2. Justin Maxwell
3. Roger Bernadina
4. Willie Harris
5. Jerry Owens
Right field
1. Elijah Dukes
2. Justin Maxwell
3. Willie Harris
The outfield is in better shape. Maxwell is ready for an extended look in case of an injury and Harris remains a capable reserve. Joining those two and the backup catcher on the bench should be two from the group of Morse, Gonzalez and Bruntlett.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

Braves
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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.