The Washington Nationals agreed to 2023 salaries and avoided arbitration Friday with five of their six eligible players. The lone outlier: center fielder Victor Robles.
Robles was the only National not to agree by the date to file arbitration figures last season, though he and the team eventually settled at $1.65 million in April to avoid an arbitration hearing. In 2022, the Nationals filed a $1.6 million figure for the center fielder while the player submitted $2.1 million.
If the sides were not able to agree on a figure before Friday’s deadline, they will be scheduled for a hearing in March — but they can still negotiate until then.
The players who agreed to deals Friday, according to sources familiar with the negotiations: outfielder Lane Thomas ($2.2 million) and relievers Kyle Finnegan ($2.325 million), Carl Edwards Jr. ($2.25 million), Victor Arano ($925,000) and Hunter Harvey (undisclosed).
Thomas, 27, was in his first year of arbitration and coming off a season in which he hit 17 home runs, second on the team behind Juan Soto (who had 21 before he was dealt to San Diego at the trade deadline).
The Nationals entered the offseason with 10 arbitration-eligible players, but that number was whittled down following a few moves. The Nationals agreed to a one-year, $975,000 deal with Ildemaro Vargas in mid-November then non-tendered Erick Fedde and Luke Voit a few days later.
In December, the Nationals and Tanner Rainey avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $1.5 million deal.
Fedde, the team’s 2014 first-round pick, signed with the NC Dinos in South Korea. Voit remains a free agent.
Robles, a Gold Glove finalist in 2022, continues to be a strong asset in the field, but he has yet to establish himself at the plate. He hit just .224 in 366 at-bats last season. Still just 25, he should have ample opportunities to play alongside Thomas and outfielder Corey Dickerson, who signed a one-year deal earlier this week and will likely play left field. Outfielders Alex Call and Stone Garrett figure to also be in the mix.
In order to clear space for Dickerson on the 40-man roster, the Nationals designated reliever Andres Machado for assignment. That move came as a bit of a surprise because Machado was one of the team’s best relievers down the stretch; he didn’t allow an earned run in his final 17 appearances. But Machado was out of option years, meaning he’d offer less roster flexibility.
Still, Friday’s deals mean the Nationals bullpen will have a lot of familiarity when pitchers and catchers report next month. Edwards, Finnegan and Harvey proved to be reliable late-inning relievers for Manager Dave Martinez last year. And eventually, once Tanner Rainey returns from his UCL tear, he’ll likely be in the mix as well. Arano also showed flashes, although he missed time with injuries last year.
Even with Rule 5 pick Thad Ward in the mix, Washington still has a handful of options to fill the remaining bullpen spots. And looking beyond this upcoming season: Of the four relievers who signed Friday, only Edwards will be eligible for free agency next year.