The Nationals went from modest expectations in 2012 to the best regular season record in the majors at 98-64. This means they got a lot of unexpectedly strong performances. Will the players who produced those seasons repeat themselves in 2013?
They will still be good players but I think Gonzalez will regress and I think Desmond will regress. Gonzalez may allow more home runs (only 9 this year) and perhaps walk more batters, and Desmond showed power that he never had before.
If Jackson is now hoping for a multi-year deal, I do not think he should get it from the Nationals. There will be other good free agents out there. Zack Greinke would be the biggest splash. Do you go for him? The Nationals worked out a trade with the Royals which Greinke blocked a couple years back, but he did so because he thought losing Jordan Zimmermann, Danny Espinosa, and Drew Storen would gut the Nationals and decrease their chances at contention.
What would you do with Jackson?
What would you do with LaRoche? This was his best season since 2006. He's probably going to be re-signed. Will he repeat or approach his 2012 season at the age 34?
The outfield. A free agent prospect who intrigues me is Melky Cabrera. While he is clearly a better player than Cabrera, Ryan Braun seemed to be unaffected this year after testing positive for PEDs last year. If Cabrera ends up with no multiyear offers, I would like to see the Nats make a one-year offer to him. I'm not sure you would though.
I mention Melky Cabrera because I would consider trading Michael Morse. He was a great hitter and good player in 2011, but his fielding leaves a lot to be desired and his hitting was merely good in 2012, and probably average for a left fielder. I do not think he is worth his $6.7 million salary in 2013, but the Nats did sign him to that before this season. We will see.
Bryce Harper should have at least one more year of center field in him. He could also have a huge 2013 after a really big September 2012. Some 2013 season previews may well have him as an MVP candidate.
Drew Storen is the 2013 closer. Danny Espinosa is the 2013 second baseman. They are probably the least popular Nationals among the fan base currently. Yes, Storen melted down in Game 5, and yes, Espinosa strikes out too much. Still, Espinosa really is a slick fielder and, for the second base position, has been perfectly adequate at the plate in both 2011 and 2012, despite the strikeouts.
I want to end on Stephen Strasburg. He was wearing down at the end of the year and anyone who doubts it should check out his numbers in his last 3, 6, and 10 starts. They are numbers you would like from your fourth starter, but not your ace. I do not think he would have changed the outcome of a series where the Nationals were outscored 32-16 and could barely score for four games.
Still, Strasburg should be good to go for a full workload in 2013 and we should all look forward to it.
While Desmond and Gonzalez were the Nationals' best position player and pitcher in 2012, I expect Harper and Strasburg to fill those roles in 2013.