It's hard to imagine a season going much worse for anyone than 2023 went for Jesse Winker. The Brewers brought in Winker in a trade with the Seattle Mariners, hoping he would bounce back to the form he had with the Cincinnati Reds. Instead, what transpired led to fans booing him just walking up to the plate.
Winker hit the free agent market at the end of last season and after the year he had, the Brewers were clearly not looking to bring him back. It would've been tough to see Winker finding much of a market for his services at all, but now he's found a team in the NL East.
The Washington Nationals have signed Jesse Winker to a minor league contract ahead of the 2024 season.
Jesse Winker did not have a good showcase year ahead of free agency. He slashed just .199/.320/.247 with only one home run, five doubles, and an OPS+ of 60 in 166 at-bats in 2023. Winker was decent the first week or two of the season, but a bout of pneumonia set him back and he never really recovered offensively the rest of the year. A back injury put him on the shelf for the final few months of the season just when it was looking like he was going to be designated for assignment.
He stayed down in Triple-A for as long as possible on his rehab before another injury reset his rehab assignment. It looked like we had seen the last of Winker in a Brewers uniform.
But no, inexplicably, Winker returned to the active roster in the Wild Card round of the postseason, despite not making it back in the regular season at all. Then-Brewers manager Craig Counsell praised Winker's ability to draw a walk as the reason he made the team over a capable and healthy Rowdy Tellez or Garrett Mitchell. Winker then was given a pinch hit at-bat in the 8th inning of Game 1 against Arizona, where he proceeded to injure his oblique before striking out on three pitches.
Then, again inexplicably, Counsell kept Winker on the active roster instead of taking him out for injury reasons and gave him another AB in Game 2, where he ended up weakly grounding out, leading to a loud chorus of boos from the Milwaukee faithful.
Winker needs a fresh start and he'll get one in Washington. A rebuilding squad could have plenty of opportunity for a veteran like Winker to earn some ABs. He's on a minor league deal, which isn't surprising, and can try to work his way back in Triple-A if he doesn't make the roster out of spring training.