Chicago Cubs: Nationals use addition by subtraction
The Nationals made just one offer to Bryce Harper during the course of the offseason last year. They were not intent on engaging in a bidding war for a player that they felt they could replace in the aggregate.
Washington general manager Mike Rizzo got to work. He signed the best free-agent pitcher on the market–left-hander Patrick Corbin–while also signing veteran starter Anibal Sanchez to round out the starting rotation.
In 2018, the Nationals ranked 25th in catching WAR and dead-last in second base WAR, according to Baseball-Reference. This past year, Suzuki and Dozier helped the Nats climb to 15th at each of those positions, respectively. Meanwhile, Washington’s starters handily led all teams in WAR.
Most importantly, many of these changes helped the Nationals win 93 games despite having one of the worst bullpen units in the majors.
Of course, the Nationals were willing to let Harper walk-in part because of the talent and depth that they had on the roster. Adam Eaton was returning from injury, Juan Soto already looked like an All-Star at 19 years old, and Victor Robles would get his shot as a full-time starter.
However, Rizzo’s recognition that his team had more pressing needs was a crucial component of his offseason strategy, which in turn has had a drastic impact on Washington’s success this season.