Last year, Dan Haren was supposed to be an improvement over Edwin Jackson. Denard Span was an upgrade over Mike Morse and Rafael Soriano was a luxury the Nationals could afford. There was a reason many thought the Nationals would repeat as National League East champions. Last year was all about the right process, but the wrong results. Between injuries and a struggling Dan Haren in the first half of the season and too much rope for Danny Espinosa, the Nationals fell short of the playoffs.
Not much has changed for Mike Rizzo this offseason. He is still trying to improve the team in any way he can. Doug Fister isn't only an improvement on Dan Haren, he is similar to Jordan Zimmermann. Last year, there were debates about whether the Nationals or Tigers had the best rotation in baseball. There are no such debates now. Fister shifted that landscape. Fister may end up being the Nationals' fourth starter, but don't let that fool you. Fister is now one of the best pitchers in the National League.
There is something to be said for the process. As long as you're making sound decisions, even if they don't work out, you will come out ahead more often than not. The Toronto Blue Jays failed spectacularly last season and were among the biggest disappointments in recent history. However, most lauded General Manager Alex Anthopoulos over his moves. You can't predict everything. Sometimes things that are unexpected happen but planning for the likely scenario is what makes championship teams consistent. Think the Cardinals and Tigers and even the Rangers and Athletics.
Nate McLouth was signed to a two-year contract Friday and will fill the Roger Bernadina slot for the Nationals this season, and will hopefully make the bench a lot more like the 2012 version and a lot less like the 2013 version. This is another case of Rizzo seeing something that was an absolute weakness last year and trying to improve it. You can argue dollars and cents of the deal, but if you want something bad enough in the open market you will have to pay for it. Overpaying for a bench player like McLouth is a lot easier to do when you didn't pay B.J. Upton or Carlos Beltran or Ervin Santana as a free agent and instead traded for Denard Span and Doug Fister. It's what having depth allows you to do.
Last season was obviously a disappointment for everyone involved with the Nationals from players to fans to management. If at first you don't succeed, try again. When it comes to building a team, eventually things even out. You make enough sound decisions in December, eventually you'll be a regular in October.
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