Nationals tender contracts to four players ahead of Friday’s deadline

As expected, the Washington Nationals tendered contracts to their four remaining arbitration-eligible players — Kyle Finnegan, Luis García, Hunter Harvey and Lane Thomas — ahead of the Friday’s non-tender deadline.

The deadline is basically a formality between teams and arbitration-eligible players. A tendered contract leaves negotiations open for next season. The sides have until Jan. 12 to file a salary figure for arbitration if they haven’t agreed on a contract, though they can negotiate until a court date. A non-tender puts a player on the open market.

Thomas was the Nationals’ most consistent hitter in 2023, leading the team in homers and runs scored. Finnegan and Harvey were the team’s two best relievers this season. Tendering contracts to those three seemed like no-brainers.

The decision to tender a contract to García also was expected but not a given. Billed as Washington’s second baseman of the future entering the season, García regressed with a .266 batting average, .304 on-base percentage and .385 slugging percentage in 2023. He was sent down in August, with Manager Dave Martinez hinting that García needed to develop a more consistent routine.

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García has a Super Two designation, given to a select group of players who have between two and three years of major league service time. Players who qualify rank in the top 22 percent of service time among those between two to three years. Next year will be important for García to prove himself as the Nationals’ everyday second baseman, especially with a salary that will be significantly higher than his pre-arbitration year. Not to mention, Washington has prospects such as Trey Lipscomb who are improving and inching closer to the majors.

The Nationals had three additional players who were arbitration-eligible entering the week: Tanner Rainey, Victor Robles and Dominic Smith. On Tuesday, the team designated Smith and Cory Abbott in moves aimed at clearing space for Rule 5 protections. Both are now free agents. Then Washington agreed to one-year contracts with Rainey and Robles. Its roster stands at 40.

Smith will now look for his third team in the past three seasons after the Nationals signed him to a one-year deal this season in hopes that he could rediscover the offense he flashed for the New York Mets, who non-tendered him last year. But he hit only 12 home runs — six in September — so now Washington will look for power bats and veteran leadership at both corner infield positions as well as in the outfield through free agency.

Robles will get one final shot to prove himself in 2024; the Nationals have a thin outfield group, and their top prospects are not quite ready. The 26-year-old was hitting .299 before a back injury sidelined him for most of the season. This will be a quiet offseason for Robles and the Nationals, who have filed figures for arbitration hearings the past two years.

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