Eaton, Kendrick among four Nats to hit free agency after options declined


The Washington Nationals could be looking to replace some key contributors from their 2019 World Series team.

The Nats this week officially declined 2021 options on outfielder Adam Eaton, utility men Howie Kendrick and Eric Thames, and pitcher Anibal Sanchez.

Eaton, 32 in December, was back for a fourth year with Nationals last season after they picked up the first of two club options on his contract.

They apparently thought better of it this time around, opting to pay him a $1.5M buyout rather than pay him $10.5M next season. The outfielder struggled mightily in the virus-shortened 2020 campaign, hitting .226/.285/..384 in 176 plate appearances.

Between 2014-19, Eaton hit a cool .289/.367/.423, so there should be suitors for his services.

Kendrick, whose virtuoso hitting performance in the 2019 playoffs helped push the Nats to title glory, hits the open market at age 37. He's coming off a mere 100 plate appearances in 2020, in which he hit an underwhelming .275/.320/.385. This after winning NLCS MVP honors and hitting .286/.328/.444 overall in the postseason.

Kendrick, formerly of the Angels and Dodgers, said he was considering retiring at season's end, but was having second thoughts about going out on a down note due to the virus and his own forgettable performance in 2020.

Joining Eaton and Kendrick in free agency is fellow position player Thames. The 33-year-old has caught on in MLB after returning from a stint in Korea several years ago. The lefty slugger has played first base and some corner outfield in recent years, though he struggled in his lone season in Washington after spending the previous three in Milwaukee. It was unclear if the Nats were interested in bringing him back.

Rounding out the list was veteran pitcher Anibal Sanchez, who turns 37 in February. The right-hander was useful as pitching depth during the team's World Series run, but the magic wore off in 2020. The former Brave, Tiger and Marlin logged an ugly 6.62 ERA last season.