Posted on December 3, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
After giving at least some consideration to retaining Ben Revere in 2017, the Washington Nationals on Friday decided to let him go. The Nationals non-tendered Revere, making him a free agent and giving Washington a void to fill in center field. However, the Nationals reportedly have a long list of players outside the organization they are looking at to be their center fielder in 2017.
Admittedly, bringing back Revere was always going to be a risk after he hit just .217 with a .560 OPS in 2016. Revere ultimately lost his job in center field, with shortstop Trea Turner becoming the team’s primary center fielder late in the season and in the playoffs. There was some thought that Revere’s struggles could be due to an oblique injury he suffered early in the season, potentially setting him up to rebound in 2017. However, the Nationals are not going to take that chance.
At the moment, Turner is penciled in as Washington’s center fielder with Danny Espinosa, who was tendered a contract for 2017, remaining at shortstop. The Nationals also have Michael Taylor as an option in center field, although he has disappointed at the major league level the past two seasons after being a highly regarded prospect. The Nationals now appear determined to acquire a new center fielder either via trade or free agency in order to move Turner back to shortstop.
Without a doubt, Washington’s top target is Andrew McCutchen, who will almost certainly be traded by the Pirates this offseason. The Nationals have reportedly been speaking with the Pirates for several days, determined to land McCutchen, who has two years left on his contract before free agency and is coming off the worst season of his career. The teams are reportedly pursing a deal from multiple angles, increasing the likelihood that McCutchen will end up in Washington. However, the Rangers and Mariners have both spoken to the Pirates about McCutchen and may still have a chance to land him.
If the Nationals don’t end up trading for McCutchen, they have their eye on several free agents, including Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gomez, and Ian Desmond. Fowler is reportedly asking for $18 million per season in a long-term deal and has a few other teams interested, so he may be the most difficult to land. However, he is undoubtedly the best center fielder on the free agent market, and the Nationals could end up making a strong push for him if they can’t get McCutchen.
Both Gomez and Desmond are likely backup options. Gomez finished 2016 strong with the Texas Rangers, but he had a world of struggles during his time with the Houston Astros, and even when he was with the Brewers, there were concerns that his performance was beginning to decline. If the Nationals end up settling for Gomez, they may have been better off taking a chance on Revere.
Finally, Desmond may be an option to rejoin the Nationals as their center fielder. Desmond infamously turned down a massive extension with the Nationals, a move that backfired on him when he reached free agency. He ultimately signed with the rangers for a modest $8 million, but boosted his value with a strong 2016 season. Of course, how eager the Nationals and Desmond are for a reunion remains to be seen.
At this point, the Nationals have to be considered the favorites to land McCutchen, which is why they were able to part ways with Revere. However, the Nationals do appear to have a backup plan in place if talks with the Pirates fall apart, as Washington remains poised to make a big move this offseason, and that move could involve a acquiring a new center fielder.