By Michael Marzzacco
A lot has happened since the Nats season came to another disappointing end. The end of the 2016 MLB season saw the Cubs come back from a 3-1 deficit against the Indians to end a 108-year World Series drought. Meanwhile in DC, players have left, new players were added and there has been plenty of drama during the cold months of winter as both players and fans eagerly await Spring Training and Opening Day.
For starters, a couple Nationals players took home some National League awards. The biggest award was Max Scherzer winning the Cy Young Award, finishing ahead of Cubs teammates Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. Scherzer became the sixth pitcher to win this award in both the American and National League, joining elite names such as Gaylord Perry, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Roy Halladay as the only pitchers to win the Cy Young in both leagues. Scherzer also was the first player in Nats history to take home the Cy Young Award.
“Mad Max” led the MLB with 284 striketous and even had a 20-strikeout performance against the Tigers on May 11 which tied a Major League record. It was a game I was lucky enough to attend.
Scherzer averaged 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings and posted the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the NL at 5.07. He had an MLB-best 0.97 WHIP, and led the NL in innings pitched with 228 and 1/3 innings and wins with 20. He finished with a 2.97 ERA.
Scherzer also won two categories in the Esurance MLB awards, which was voted on by baseball legends, media, front-office personnel and the fans. He won “Best Pitcher” and his 20-strikeout game earned him “Best Performance”.
Catcher Wilson Ramos and second baseman Daniel Murphy each won NL Silver Slugger Awards. Ramos batted .307 with 22 home runs while Murphy hit .347 with 25 home runs and a .595 slugging percentage. Murphy was also voted by the MLB Players Association to win the award for NL Outstanding Player.
Finally Anthony Rendon won the NL Comeback Player of the Year award. After he was limited to just 80 games in 2015, Rendon hit 20 home runs, 38 doubles and 85 RBI’s which was similar to his totals from 2014 (20 HRs, 39 2B, 83 RBI’s). Rendon became the second player in team history to win the award after Dmitri Young won it in 2007.
When the calendar shifted to December, some interesting moves occurred and rumors started to swirl.
One of the biggest rumors going around Nats Town was talks that the Nationals were going after Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen. Imagine for a second how the outfield would’ve looked. Bryce Harper, The Cutch and then either Trea Turner or Jayson Werth. It would be hard to hit a baseball out of the infield with those three patrolling large grass.
On December 2nd, the Nats welcomed home catcher Derek Norris as the Padres traded him for RHP Pedro Avila. Norris was selected by the Nats in the fourth round of the 2007 MLB Draft. He spent that year with the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Nationals and spent four seasons in the minor league system. He was the Nationals’ second best prospect prior to the 2011 season. In December of 2011 he was dealt to the Athletics as part of the Gio Gonzalez trade.
The MLB Winter Meetings took place on Dec. 4-8 at the nearby National Harbor at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center.
In addition to the McCutchen rumors, there were rumors that the Nationals were going to go after White Sox closer Chris Sale. Mark Melancon ended up going to the Giants, so acquiring Sale would be a big help to their bullpen. It certainly looked like the Nationals were going to be the benefactors on their home territory during these Winter Meetings but sadly that wasn’t the case.
Instead, they got dealt three pitching prospects: top-prospect Lucas Giolito, 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning, and Reynaldo Lopez, who was ranked fourth in the Nats prospects list before the 2016 season began. They traded those three arms to the White Sox but not for the person you thought of. Instead, they traded them for outfielder Adam Eaton. This led to Bryce Harper’s infamous tweet heard round the world.
So it now looks like the outfield will be Harper, Eaton and Werth while Turner will move to shortstop. Sale ended up with the Red Sox.
Here are some of the free agents that ended up leaving Washington: Wilson Ramos got signed by the Twins. Sean Burnett is now with the Phillies. Ben Revere just recently joined the Angels. Danny Espinosa got traded to the Angels for two minor league pitchers.
During the weekend of December 10-11, the Nats held their annual Winterfest at the Washington Convention Center. What follows from here on out are some photos and videos of the events that took place. Peep the beard that Strasburg grew and the new alternate jerseys the Nats will wear this season. Hope this post helped you catch up with what happened this offseason! Have a good holiday. Spring Training will be here soon enough!