The Nationals are a team that is willing to invest in success. Like the Marlins (or, if you follow European soccer, Manchester City), this team has a committed ownership who wish to turn an average team into a regular contender through investment. They wind up over-paying (see Jayson Werth) to attract people to the team, but they needed to do this in order to set up a core that would look attractive to others. You can’t fault them for trying, and while it has not quite panned out yet, there is much to be optimistic about. The phenom in the making, Bryce Harper, is only 19 and could use at least another season in the minors but he looks to be just as good as the hype. This team has great starting pitching and enough bats to muscle their way through any game, although they could use upgrades at 1B and CF (unless Werth patrols it). The ownership once more proved how serious they are, in trading for coveted Gio Gonzalez and signing Edwin Jackson. The rotation, headed by genuine star Stephen Strasbourg, went from average to excellent. A few more bats in the mix with Werth and Zimmerman and Morse, and you’ve got yourself a contender.
In: Gio Gonzalez (trade), Edwin Jackson (free agent), Brad Lidge (free agent)
Out: Mike Cameron (retired)
Strength: Espinosa and Zimmerman are genuine professional hitters and young, as well. Michael Morse has blossomed at 30, putting up All-Star number (.303/31/95). The pitching should be great, and the world eagerly awaits the coming of Bryce Harper, though that probably shouldn’t be until next season.
Weakness: 1B Adam LaRoche appears to be the weakest hitter in the lineup, and that’s not a position you can afford to give away in the NL. Expensive Jayson Werth had a very poor season by his standard (.232/20/58) and must improve and provide that fearsome presence in the middle of the order that the Nationals spent around $100 million on.
Manager: Davey Johnson
Projected Rotation: Stephen Strasbourg, Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson, Jordan Zimmerman, John Lannan
Projected Closer: Drew Storen/Brad Lidge
Projected Starting Lineup:
Roger Bernadina CF
Danny Espinosa 2B
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Jayson Werth RF
Michael Morse LF
Wilson Ramos C
Ian Desmond SS
Adam LaRoche 1B