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Nationals avoid arbitration with Wilmer Difo, Hunter Strickland

The two players both inked one-year deals ahead of tonight’s deadline

MLB: NLDS-Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals have announced a pair of moves prior to Monday night’s non-tender deadline. The World Series champs agreed to one-year deals with utility player Wilmer Difo and right-handed reliever Hunter Strickland.

The Difo pact had previously been reported by Sam Fortier of the Washington Post, who hears the contract will pay Difo $1 million in 2020. The Strickland deal had not been reported yet, so it remains unclear how much he’ll be paid.

For those who don’t know, the non-tender deadline is 8:00 p.m. Eastern on Monday. After that point, teams cannot tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. These tendered contracts are not the contracts they will play under in 2020. Instead, if a team tenders a contract, they have control over that player. If a contract is tendered and the two sides cannot reach an agreement on a deal, they will eventually submit proposed salaries and head to an arbitration hearing. It is not uncommon for two sides to head to arbitration, though oftentimes, the team and player will be able to ink a pact before then to avoid the hassle of arbitration. If a team non-tenders a contract, the player becomes a free agent.

In Difo and Strickland’s case, they agreed to a deal with the Nats before the non-tender deadline, meaning they will not head to arbitration. Many players will remain unsigned entering the next negotiation period, but Washington was able to finalize a pact with Difo and Strickland sooner rather than later.

Difo, 27, slashed .252/.315/.313 in 43 big-league contests last year. He hit a pair of doubles and a pair of homers while tallying 12 walks and 29 strikeouts. He knocked in eight runs and went 0-for-1 stealing bases.

Strickland, 31, opened the year with the Mariners before being dealt to Washington over the summer. In 28 relief appearances, he owned a 5.55 ERA by allowing 15 runs on 22 hits in 24.1 innings. He surrendered six homers and eight walks while fanning 18 batters.