While there is no doubt that the 2013 Washington Nationals have been a disappointment to their fans and their management, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about the 2014 season. What we learned this season is that Washington has quality depth at every position, and it’s all young talent.
The premier member of the 2014 FA class is New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano. While Cano would look great in a Nationals uniform and his agent Scott Boras is very tight with the Lerner family, it is very unlikely that Cano will leave New York.
Second base in Washington in 2014 may well belong to Steve Lombardozzi, who may finally get a real chance at being a starter. The X factor is Danny Espinosa, who was not a September call up after spending most of the season in the minors.
At this point, GM Mike Rizzo‘s evaluation of Espinosa will decide if he stays in Washington or is dealt in the offseason. Most people around the organization feel that he might be better off being traded out of Washington.
Natural third baseman-turned second baseman Anthony Rendon‘s immediate future will be dependent on how quickly the team decides to move Ryan Zimmerman from third base to first. Rendon, at least for now, looks like he will join Tyler Moore on the Nationals bench in 2014.
That, of course, is dependent on if the team chooses to keep first baseman Adam LaRoche for one more year or use him as trade bait in the offseason. Most members of the Nationals front office like the idea of keeping La Roche and feel that his lack of offensive production was a one-year thing, making it likely that he will stay at first.
The outfield of Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth is set in stone, while rookies Jeff Kobernus, Corey Brown and Moore will battle for that fourth outfield position. There is no need to spend cash on Boston Red Sox‘ Jacoby Ellsbury.
Wilson Ramos is the team’s everyday catcher but they need a veteran backup, and do not be surprised if the team signs Kurt Suzuki, a former Nationals backstop. He was well liked in Washington and would be a great addition to the team. Another real possibility could be the addition of the Atlanta Braves‘ soon to be free agent Brian McCann.
Pitching wise, they have Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler all set in the starting rotation. Dan Haren will be gone and at the moment, it looks like the Nationals seem to be comfortable staying in house.
Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan, Ross Ohlendorf and others will get a chance to serve as the fifth starter or long relief man. Meanwhile, Tyler Clippard, Rafael Soriano, Drew Storen, Ian Krol, Craig Stammen, Ryan Mattheus and Nathan Karns will all get a chance to stay on the big league roster in the bullpen.
The best relief pitcher on the market is the Braves’ Eric O’Flaherty, who might be an interesting addition to the team. It is very unlikely that he ends up in Washington, however.
So in the end, the Nationals’ biggest free agent signing will be a manager, and that is another topic for another day. I hope you like the 2013 Nationals, because there will not be a great deal of change coming in 2014.