Nationals Offseason: 5 Most Pivotal Players

USA TODAY Sports

You just can't trade Anthony Rendon. You can't. No really, #StopTradingRendon. And quit trying to move Ryan Zimmerman across the infield, would you? As part of a collaborative effort amongst the SB Nation's baseball writers, we look at 5 Pivotal Players for the Nats this winter.

Must Keep - This player should not be discussed in any trade scenario --

#StopTradingRendon: You can't discuss the Washington Nationals and a deal for any of the big names on the market without Anthony Rendon's name coming up. Any package for the Tampa Bay Rays' David Price starts with Rendon. If the Nationals want Max Scherzer from Detroit, they might have to be willing to part with their 2011 1st Round pick. The problem, of course, is that making a deal for a pitcher that includes Rendon creates another hole.

If Rendon's gone, who's playing second?

#SignCano #Doeshereallywant$300M

Is Steve Lombardozzi the second baseman if Rendon goes? If the Nationals wanted to do that they could have just gone with Lombardozzi last season instead of bringing Rendon up earlier than planned. After Lombardozzi, who's the next second baseman on the organizational depth chart? Can Zach Walters play second? Danny Espinosa coming back?

"He was actually learning at the major league level, how to play a new position and adjusting to the league and learning how to perform offensively in the big leagues." - Mike Rizzo on Anthony Rendon on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.

You're probably not going to get either of the top pitchers rumored to be on the market this winter without including Rendon in a deal. Keep him, however, and the top two hitters in consecutive drafts (Bryce Harper in 2010, Rendon in '11) are in your lineup for years. With all the health issues they had in the rotation, all the Nats wanted out of Dan Haren last season was a .500 pitcher who "gives you a chance to win every time out." Find the pitching you need, but #StopTradingRendon.

Should Keep - This player should only be discussed at the highest premium --

So you really think David Price puts you over the top? You can't get him without including Anthony Rendon? You think you can find a second baseman easier than you can find a fourth ace-ish starter? You're not going to get a deal done without the top, young infielder in the deal... and no one fits the bill but Rendon... Nope. Still not doing it. #StopTradingRendon. Keep him. How else are you eventually going to move Ryan Zimmerman to first?#StopMovingZimToFirst

Neutral - This player is valuable to your team as-is but could also bring a nice return. --

So what about those rumors of interest in Adam LaRoche on the part of some AL teams that think the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger-winning first baseman might make a nice 1B/DH. Rizzo said he's staying. LaRoche will be the Nats' first baseman in 2014.

LaRoche had a career year in 2012 as the Nationals made a run. He got himself a two-year deal after failing to find a multi-year offer anywhere else. He had a rough season in 2013, but he's under contract for $12M this season and coming off a down year, his stock is pretty low. If someone made an offer though? The problem with LaRoche leaving? Tyler Moore at first base?

Can a contending team trust that they have an everyday player in Moore, who struggled in a bench role last season? Do the Nationals need LaRoche's glove at first? Do they need a legit middle-of-the-order bat more? How far was Matt Skole's development set back by Tommy John surgery?

Can the Nats get Mauro Gomez back from Japan? Has Chris Marrero signed anywhere yet?

#StopMovingZimToFirst

Should Trade - Your team should trade this player while there's still value --

Tommy Milone, 24, was an '08 10th Round pick coming off an organizational Minor League Player of the Year award in 2010 and a 2011 season in which he made his MLB debut. Brad Peacock, 23, was an '06 41st Round pick who wound up no.3 overall on Baseball America's Top 10 List in 2011 after he too debuted with the '11 Nationals. Derek Norris was 22 at the time and the top-rated catcher in the organization. A.J. Cole, 19 at the time, was a 2010 4th Round pick with high upside. That package brought young, controllable lefty Gio Gonzalez to the nation's capital.

If they were going to put together a package for a pitcher today not named David Price, who could the Nats trade this winter? 2012 Minor League POY Nathan Karns, 25, who made his debut this year, returned to Double-A and finished strong. Taylor Jordan, 24 who got ground balls wherever he pitched, impressed in the majors and is seemingly recovered from Tommy John? Is anyone going to bite on recovering pitchers like Sammy Solis and Matt Purke?

Can the Nationals come up with a package that starts with their major league-ready arms? Then throw in Tyler Moore? Then who backs up at first? I know, I know. How about Zach Walters? Can the Nats flip the player they got for Jason Marquis as part of a deal coming off a 2013 campaign in which he showed impressive power? Was Ross Detwiler the easiest answer here? Tanner Roark while his stock is probably higher than it ever will be again?

Must Get Rid Of - Do whatever it takes --

The Nationals are trying to add bench players, a backup infielder, outfielder, catcher and bullpen arms, preferably lefties, because they're happy with the core they have in place in the rotation, pen and everyday lineup. There's no one on the roster who screams "Must Get Rid Of" right now, though there are plenty in NatsTown who are clamoring for the Nationals to replace Adam LaRoche, get rid of Denard Span and move Bryce Harper back to center before they trade Rafael Soriano and eat most of the remaining money they owe him for whatever anyone will give them. There's no obvious "Must Get Rid Of" them candidate... Do I get in trouble if I don't really answer this one?

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