The Washington Nationals may be in the midst of one of their hottest stretches of the season, but it is never too late to look ahead to 2014 for more than one reason.
For much of 2013, the Nationals have been plagued by injuries to every aspect of their team, along with their bench players revealing that they are simply bench players who cannot be depended on to adequately stand in for the injured starters.
Combine that with a hot start by the Atlanta Braves, and you have a recipe for a huge deficit in the division and a huge deficit in the Wild Card. That’s Washington’s season in a nutshell.
Needless to say, Washington will probably be very busy this winter. Off the bat, they will need a back-end rotation starter, as chances that Washington will hold onto Dan Haren are slim to none, not to mention the fact that he has acknowledged he probably will return to the West Coast where his family is.
First base may also become a point of contention, as Adam LaRoche is on his way to his worst offensive season since his rookie year and may become a trade candidate with his age and contract, especially with the performance of Tyler Moore combined with Ryan Zimmerman‘s ever-growing throwing issue.
The question of LaRoche’s status could compound roster issues for Washington, as trading LaRoche and moving Zimmerman opens a hole at third base. Current second baseman Anthony Rendon is a third baseman by trade, and would make the easy shift back to his natural position, which would then move the hole at third over to second base.
GM Mike Rizzo preaches of stability and depth across the organization, and could look to bring in a second baseman long term in an effort to rebuild that part of the organization. A guy like Robinson Cano could be in Rizzo’s plans, as we have seen Rizzo is unafraid of giving a slightly older player a big contract.
Washington has had some bright spots, as youngsters Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark have shown an affinity for getting major league hitters out. Jordan has been shut down due to an innings limit, and Roark will probably get one or two starts to close out the season to show his wares.
Combine these two with the return of Ross Ohlendorf and the assumption Ross Detwiler will be healthy in 2014, and Washington may have enough pitching that they can focus on improving the offense and bringing in someone like a Cano.
Or, they could simply lock up their young stars to provide a more clear idea of what their payroll will look like if they add a player or two.
Washington will have to make changes, that is a guarantee; the question is where they will come and who will be the victims of those changes. Change is good, and for Washington, it is a necessity.