The Washington Nationals have a four year window to turn their franchise into a perennial winner. Washington has built a solid organization that is built to last. The Nationals made their first ever post season appearance in 2012 by winning a club record 98 games.
The four year window exists, because this is how long Washington has its core players locked up. From pitcher Stephen Strasburg to outfielder Bryce Harper the Nationals have a group of young players that have not reached their prime and should improve over the next four years. During this time the team should improve as well. If they do, Washington will continue to play games in October and may make it to the World Series.
While building the team general manager Mike Rizzo has drafted and signed six current starters who are all under 30 years old. The youngest is Harper who just turned 20. The oldest is third baseman Ryan Zimmerman who is 27. Harper and Zimmerman are signed for at least the next five years. They are expected to be two of the faces of the organization.
The third face is Strasburg. He is all of 23 years old. This makes him the youngest starter in the Nationals rotation. The oldest is Edwin Jackson who is 28. Jackson is a free agent and may not be back next season. Washington’s other three starters are all 26 in Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman and Ross Detwiler. The man that the Nationals are grooming to be their closer out of the bullpen, Drew Storen, is 24.
As for the rest of the team infielders Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond are 25 and 26 respectively. The man who started 2012 at catcher but was injured, Wilson Ramos is 24. His backup Jose Flores is 27. If Washington decides to stick with Kurt Suzuki, whom they picked up in a trade with the Oakland Athletics, he is 28.
With the exception of Jackson, Flores and Suzuki every one of the players mentioned is signed through at least 2016. Almost all of them are just reaching their prime. This means that Washington is pretty much set for four to five years. Acquiring talent is not an issue. All it has to do is perform.
After 2016, the Nationals will have some serious financial decisions to make. Almost all of their top talent will be free agents. If the team continues to win and each man improves Washington will probably lose some players in free agency. They may trade one or two before then. This is the norm in today’s MLB.
So the Nationals have four to five years to get it done with this group. If they can keep it together we may see a team that challenges for the pennant annually. After that who knows? Half of the team could end up wearing the pinstripes of the New York Yankees.
Until then, let’s live for today. Washington has a solid team that is going to be around for a while. Let’s enjoy it and cheer them on.