Washington Nationals (97-65), 1st in the NL East
Free Agents: OF Jayson Werth, RP Brandon Kintzler, IF/OF Howie Kendrick, 1B/LF Adam Lind, IF Stephen Drew, C Jose Lobaton, RP Oliver Perez, SP Edwin Jackson, SP Joe Blanton
For the fourth time in six seasons, the Nationals are in the same situation entering the offseason.
They are coming off another campaign in which they won the NL East, this time finishing a whopping 20 games ahead of the second-place Marlins, but lost in the NLDS. Falling short in this spot has made the Nationals once again have to figure out what to do in order to get over the hump in hopes of reaching their first NLCS since 1981 and ultimately win their first World Series in franchise history.
The first step they took was firing veteran manager Dusty Baker and hiring Dave Martinez as his replacement to lead the club. Now that Martinez is at the helm, Washington general manager Mike Rizzo and company will try to add more starting pitchers, relievers and bench players who can make an impact for the team, according to Jamal Collier of MLB.com.
Collier says the Nationals will explore middle-of-the-rotation type of starters because they have two of the top pitchers in the game in Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg and they need to find someone who could pitch while fifth starter Joe Ross makes his way back from Tommy John surgery. Names the Nationals could try to go after are Jaime Garcia, Jhoulys Chacin, Jason Vargas and Chris Tillman.
As far as relievers, the Nationals need a right-handed arm to complement closer Sean Doolittle and setup man Ryan Madson, who they acquired from the Athletics during the non-waiver trade deadline. The Nationals could try to bring back their other reliever they acquired at the deadline, Brandon Kintzler, a man they have interest in, according to Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post. Janes says they could also look into trying to sign Brandon Morrow, who was a go-to reliever for the Dodgers during the World Series, but he may hold out for a bigger contract somewhere else. Janes also says veterans such as Steve Cishek, Pat Neshek, Juan Nicasio, Addison Reed, Bryan Shaw, and Anthony Swarzak are options as well.
The bench need is there because Stephen Drew and Howie Kendrick are free agents. The club also declined Adam Lind’s option, making him go on the open market in the process.
Whatever needs they decide to try to fill, the Nationals could use their depth in the outfield to try to obtain them through a trade, according to Collier. The starting outfield consists of Bryce Harper, Michael Taylor and Adam Eaton, but they also have Brian Goodwin and three talented prospects, including Victor Robles — the No. 2 ranked prospect according to MLBPipeline.com.
There is no chance Harper and Eaton are traded because of Harper’s stature and Eaton having been acquired only last winter. Collier says Taylor has drawn interest in the past and could have more after his breakout season this year. He also said Robles would probably give the Nationals the greatest return in a deal, but it seems more likely they will bring him up sooner than later. So, a deal involving Taylor or the other two prospects — Andrew Stevenson and Rafael Bautista — would be the most likely scenario if they do one at all.
However, the Nationals know they have to do something in order to not have a repeat of last season or the other times they fell short in the playoffs.