This post could well be subtitled "movin’ on up" because that’s what the Nationals payroll has been doing. The payroll bottomed out in 2007, at $37,347,500 (all actual salary figures are based on Cot’s baseball contracts). Since then the salary figures have grown, with a quick jump in 2008, then slowly until another sudden jump in 2012:
2008: $54,961,000 (+47.2%)
2009: $60,328,000 (+9.8%)
2010: $66,275,000 (+9.8%)
2011: $68,306,929 (+3.1%)
2012: $92,534,929 (+35.5%)
2013: $118,289,679 (+27.8%)
These figures may look slightly higher than other figures that you see on other web sites. This is likely because Cot’s counts pro-rated portions of signing bonuses. Regardless, the Nationals had moved up to 11th of the 30 teams in payroll in 2013.
It seems likely that they will crash their way into the top ten in 2014. The Nationals have eleven players under contract for 2014, for a total of $81,534,000. They will get $500,000 back as the Chicago Cubs will be underwriting that much of Scott Hairston’s salary, so a total of $81,034,000. They have an additional eight players that are arbitration eligible. Using estimated salary figures for these players taken from MLBTR, this should add approximately $37.3 million. This is likely low; as the comment section to that link reveals, MLBTR’s figure estimates that Strasburg will make $3.9 million, which would be exactly what he made in 2013. I think some raise is more likely. But even using that figure, that would bring the Nationals' 2014 salary figure to $118,334,000 for 19 players. Even if the remaining players all make about the major league minimum (which in 2014 will be $500,000) that would bring their payroll to around $128,884,000.
And of course even that approximate figure would be higher if the Nationals sign or trade for an established veteran arm or bat, or even if they sign a one or more of their arbitration eligible players to a long term extension (Zimmermann, Desmond, Ramos). Still, the Nationals are not yet (quite) at the level where salary considerations should cause them to non-tender an arbitration eligible player (like, say, Tyler Clippard) whose contribution would be hard to replace. This is a team in "win now" mode whose window to compete is wide open.