Nationals set their initial player pool
It’s all subject to change, for so many reasons, but the Washington Nationals have an initial list of players who could participate in a 2020 season shortened by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The deadline to submit their club player pool was 4 p.m. Sunday. The club player pool, its official name in Major League Baseball’s operations manual for 2020, is an extension of the active and 40-man rosters a team uses in a normal season. Because there almost certainly will be no minor league games this summer, MLB asked teams to choose who could be added to the 40-man roster throughout a tentative 60-game schedule.
On Monday, Nationals veteran first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and starting pitcher Joe Ross were among the first major leaguers to opt out of the 2020 season because of concerns about the coronavirus. Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake was the first player to announce he was sitting out the season.
“After a great deal of thought and given my family circumstances — three young children, including a newborn, and a mother at high risk — I have decided not to participate in the 2020 season,” Zimmerman, 35, said in a statement Monday. “… I cannot speak for anyone else, but given the unusual nature of the season, this is the best decision for my family, and I truly appreciate the [Nationals’] understanding and support.”
Here is the Nationals’ initial player pool, broken down by position and in alphabetical order:
Pitchers (35): Fernando Abad, Joan Adon, Dakota Bacus, Aaron Barrett, James Bourque, Ben Braymer, Tim Cate, Patrick Corbin, Matt Cronin, Wil Crowe, Sean Doolittle, Roenis Elías, Tyler Eppler, Paolo Espino, Erick Fedde, Kyle Finnegan, Sam Freeman, Steven Fuentes, Javy Guerra, Ryne Harper, Will Harris, Daniel Hudson, Jake Irvin, Kyle McGowin, Kevin Quackenbush, Tanner Rainey, Seth Romero, Jackson Rutledge, Aníbal Sánchez, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Wander Suero, Austin Voth, Nick Wells, Austen Williams
Catchers (6): Tres Barrera, Welington Castillo, Yan Gomes, Raudy Read, Jakson Reetz, Kurt Suzuki
Infielders (10): Asdrúbal Cabrera, Starlin Castro, Wilmer Difo, Luis García, Howie Kendrick, Carter Kieboom, Jake Noll, Brandon Snyder, Eric Thames, Trea Turner
Outfielders (7): Emilio Bonifácio, Adam Eaton, Yadiel Hernandez, Victor Robles, Juan Soto, Andrew Stevenson, Michael A. Taylor
One way this pool could change is if any players decide to opt out, as Zimmerman and others did Monday. They can do so for personal medical reasons or to avoid putting their families at risk. MLB did not plan to play its season in a bubble like the NBA and is trusting that players and their families will exercise caution away from team facilities and police one another’s behavior. It has made many apprehensive — including a handful of Nationals players — as Zimmerman recently articulated in his running diary for the Associated Press.
The other way it could change is through the usual transactions: trades, cuts, an injury requiring a trip to the long-term injured list and so on. Baseball’s operations manual has specific guidelines for a player going to what’s being called the “covid-19related injury list.” There’s a chance the virus tanks the season before it begins or makes it impossible to finish. It could, by a not so similar token, also change a club’s roster on any given day.
While the Nationals have yet to publicly explain the thought process behind their initial player pool, there are distinctions within the group. García and Rutledge headline a young group Washington can keep developing at its alternative training site and otherwise promote in unforeseen circumstances. Joining them are Tim Cate, Matt Cronin and Seth Romero, pitchers selected in the early rounds of recent drafts.
Wil Crowe, Joan Adon, Jake Irvin, Nick Wells and Steven Fuentes are other young arms in the system who are not on the 40-man roster but could land on it in the future.
On the other end of the spectrum are the veterans used to fill out the pool. All of them received nonroster invitations to spring training in February, and they bring varying levels of major league experience to an odd situation. This list includes pitchers Fernando Abad, Paolo Espino, Sam Freeman and Kevin Quackenbush, catcher Welington Castillo, infielder Brandon Snyder and utility man Emilio Bonifácio.
A handful of non-40-man roster players will be invited to training camp. In theory, they would have the best chance to join the 40-man roster or make a push to be one of 30 players activated for Opening Day. Active rosters will start at 30 before decreasing to 28 on the 15th day of the regular season, then 26 on the 29th day. Clubs will then carry 26 players for the rest of the season and the playoffs, should they happen.
While traveling, clubs will be able to carry a “taxi squad” of up to three players, one of which would have to be a catcher. Other than that, the nonactive player pool will be at the team’s alternate training site, which probably will be in Fredericksburg, Va. The players will make $400 per week through the first week of September, when the minor league season would have ended. They will stay ready and wait for a call.