Will Matt Adams Hit a Big Fly in Free Agency?

Matt Adams isn’t the Nationals’ most flashy free agent, but he is among their most interesting free agents to follow — it’s a bit nuanced.

Adams had a $4 million mutual option on the table for 2020, with a $1 million buyout attached to it. Washington opted for the latter, exposing him to free agency.

He had a rather unceremonious end to his tenure in D.C. as he battled through a series of injuries.

Adams only received four plate appearances this postseason (17 games), but it would be unfair to acknowledge the prominent role he played across parts of two seasons in Washington.

This wasn’t his most productive season, but Adams still provides power off the bench (or in a platoon capacity vs. right-handed pitching), which is why I don’t believe the door is closed on Adams’ tenure in Washington — the current roster lacks some firepower from that side of the plate.

One roadblock towards a return to D.C. will likely be whether he is determined to be an NL or AL player. Up until now, he has only played for the Nationals, Cardinals, and Braves, but the ability to be at least a part-time designated hitter could help him (an over-30 lumbering slugger).

Would it really, though? As previously mentioned, he’s best-served when only facing right-handed pitching, and it’s easier to manipulate such reps in the NL — especially late in games, when he often thrives.

Despite his perception, Adams is actually a slightly above-average defender (in 2019 and throughout his career) at first base, according to defensive runs saved (DRS) and ultimate zone runs (UZR). He doesn’t provide versatility, but he’s more than playable in the field, so he doesn’t have to be a DH.

Adams didn’t have a large free agent market last season, leading to him signing a one-year, $4 million deal with the aforementioned mutual option. It’s hard to imagine that he would receive any more than that this time around, and he becomes less appealing with every year over 30 he tacks onto his age.

In all likelihood, he would only return if either Ryan Zimmerman or Howie Kendrick are not retained, but it’s certainly plausible that Kendrick could return and receive more reps at second base — although his workload would have to be monitored.

It appears that someone of Adams’ ilk should be added to the Nationals’ roster. Should they stick to the status quo or dive into the rest of the open market?

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