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Washington Nationals Payroll Planner 2016

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Here's how the Nationals are spending their money for the next five years. They have cash to burn and plenty of big names leaving this winter and next. What can they -- what should they do to prepare for the future?

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

$118 million.

That is the opening day payroll of the Washington Nationals if they make no moves this winter.

The Nats opened 2015 with a $162 million payroll and ended up spending a little more than that by the end of the year. If the Nats do not increase spending this year, which they don't really need to, they have roughly $45 million to play with this winter.

Here we will look at what the Nationals are spending by position and what gaps will need to be filled either this off-season or in the near future:

Starting Pitchers:

Starting Pitchers 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Max Scherzer $15.0 $15.0 $15.0 $15.0 $15.0
Gio Gonzalez $12.0 $12.0 club opt $12.0 club opt FA
Stephen Strasburg $10.5 arb3 FA
Tanner Roark club control arb1 arb2 arb3 FA
Joe Ross club control club arb1 arb2 arb3

Depth at starting pitching may feel a bit decimated with the loss of Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister.  Lucas Giolito is still a not quite ready for the big stage, so even if Rizzo acquires an arm to flesh out the rotation, the Nationals will be relying on one or more of their young arms to step up in 2016.

None of Tanner Roark, A.J. Cole, Taylor Hill, Taylor Jordan really impressed last year, so everyone is now looking to Joe Ross as the in vogue savior of the bottom of the rotation. If Ross lives up to expectations and picks up where he left off, the Nats are in a good place.

A top end free agent signing at this position signals either a serious run for October and/or an expectation that Strasburg will not be extended beyond his current contract.  A lesser free agent signing would merely be a vote of no confidence in Roark and the other young #5 starters. An older pitcher on a shorter contract might fit the bill best.

The Bullpen:

Bullpen Pitchers 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Jonathan Papelbon $8.0 $3.0 def, FA
Drew Storen $8.8 arb3 FA
Craig Stammen $2.4 arb3 FA
David Carpenter $1.5 arb2 arb3 FA
Aaron Barrett club control club arb1 arb2 arb3
Blake Treinen club control club arb1 arb2 arb3
Felipe Rivero club control club arb1 arb2 arb3

The bullpen has a pair of expensive but elite guys at the top.  It has a couple of medium priced but solid guys coming back from injury in the middle.  At the bottom are a group of cheap and mixed quality young arms.

The Nationals probably do not need to make any big moves here if they trust the health of this bunch, though adding a few more arms to stash at AAA would not hurt. Rivero is the only lefty in this group, so some backup for him would be appreciated.

Papelbon probably can't be moved. Storen is movable, but hard to replace. No obvious moves to make, but Rizzo may have more ideas than I do. His focus may be on avoiding having to deal with the loss of three of his top bullpen pieces next year all at one time.

Catchers:

Catchers 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Wilson Ramos $5.3 arb3 FA
Jose Lobaton $1.5 arb2 arb3 FA

Ramos was nominated for a Gold Glove and he does seem pretty good at calling perfect games no-hitters, but his bat took a major step backward last year. I can't tell you why. His peripherals look very similar to previous seasons, he just managed to forget how to hit every pitch. Was it voodoo? Hypnosis by a jealous teammate?

Next off-season will be a bigger worry than this one because the Nats do not have anyone in the minors who is close to ready for the starting role. Rizzo will be certainly be hunting for a catcher, but he is under no pressure to finish that hunt this off-season. There is chatter that Matt Wieters could be a good fit (priced $16M AAV), though he is coming off some short seasons of his own may not be a big enough upgrade over Ramos to make a big contract worth it.

First Base:

First Basemen 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Ryan Zimmerman $14.0 $14.0 $14.0 $18.0 $18.0 club opt
Clint Robinson club control club control arb1 arb2 arb3
Tyler Moore $1.0 arb1 arb2 arb3 FA

The Z-Man owns this job for years to come. Rain or shine he isn't going anywhere. Clint Robinson has earned himself the backup spot here and in left field for the time being.

Second Base: (aka Who's on Second? I don't know!)

Second Basemen 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Danny Espinosa $2.7 arb2 arb3 FA

Yes, who will actually play what infield position come spring is not an easy thing to guess. The versatile Espinosa had the most play here at second base in 2015, but there is a real possibility that the Nats could use him to fill in at short instead of second when 2016 starts.

There was talk of moving Yunel Escobar to the right side of the infield last year but it never happened. His glove is the weakest of the three, so it may yet come to pass. Then again, Rendon could continue to play out of position and get more time here as well. Mark my words, somebody will get this job. Somebody.

Shortshop:

Shortstops 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Yunel Escobar $7.0 $7.0 club opt FA
Trea Turner rookie still here still here still here still here

There is a real expectation that Trea Turner will be the full-time shortstop going forward if his bat plays well enough (it hasn't yet, not quite). Expect him to start the season in the minors.  This is Escobar's "natural", or rather historical, position, so he could play here in a pinch. As I mentioned, Espinosa could move over as well if the Nats want better defense.

Escobar had a great year at the plate in 2015 and has two years of control left at a very nice price. Just don't play him at third base. Depending on his trade value, he may be a candidate to be traded and replaced at one of three positions he could theoretically play.

Third Base:

Third Basemen 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Anthony Rendon $2.5 arb1 arb2 arb3 arb4 FA

Yunel Escobar probably had the worst glove among National League third basemen last year. If Rendon does not get this job full-time, it will be a crime.

Expect Rizzo to pick up another infielder, but again don't ask me what position he will play or if he will be a bench player or a starter.

The Outfield:

Outfielders 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Jayson Werth $21.0 $21.0 FA
Bryce Harper $5.0 arb2 arb3 FA
Michael Taylor club club arb1 arb2 arb3
Matt den Dekker club club arb1 arb2 arb3

The corners are pretty well filled out here. If Harper and Werth play up to their potential, then the Nats can afford to give Taylor some time to figure out things with his bat. Den Dekker doesn't have a great glove and doesn't have a great bat but he's versatile and cheap and will add value from the bench.

Rizzo will presumably add one more backup outfielder, probably a left-handed bat.  Gerardo Parra's name has come up as a potential fit as a left-handed backup outfielder (at $9M AAV) who can play all three positions (though he is weak in CF). There are cheaper options available as well.

Here's what the Nationals will be looking for:

One starting pitcher - A short term rental might fit them best unless they can find another younger arm to lock up long-term like they did with Gio. It appears that Scherzer has the older-pitcher-with-monster-contract spot locked down for the moment. That said, maybe there is that right fit among this year's class of free agents.

One middle infielder - Make it a backup infielder if you want to play both Escobar and Espinosa every day, otherwise look for a regular (to block Trea, of course).

One to three relief pitchers - A reliable lefty is a necessity.  Beyond that, you apparently cannot have too much depth at this position. It might be smart to move one of next year's free agents for an arm with more years of control left just to make next off-season less painful.

One left-handed backup outfielder - Ideally, someone who can play center field in case Michael Taylor crashes and burns next year.

One catcher, maybe - There are calls for replacing Ramos after his down year, but finding the right guy for the right price may not be easy at this position.

What would you do?

You have $45 million to play with. You can sign any free agent you want. (Check out MLBTR's free agent predictions for an idea of what top free agents will cost.  Check out Fangraph's predictions for more ideas and names. Jon Heyman has even more ideas.)

You can trade away any player you wish to except for Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth. Papelbon can block trades to 17 teams, so you may only trade him to a sure-fire playoff contender and be aware that nobody wants him at anything near full price. If you trade away Bryce Harper you will probably be banned from this site.

How do your moves address this year's holes? Nats lost: Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond, Denard Span, Doug Fister, Casey Jannsen, Matt Thornton.

How do your moves address next year's holes? Nats lose: Stephen Strasburg, Wilson Ramos, Drew Storen, Jonathan Papelbon, Craig Stammen.

If you have good ideas for how to fix up this roster, write them up in a Fanpost so we can discuss and promote everybody's ideas separately. Alternately, if your ideas are limited to just a single move they may fit in a comment which you can post and discuss below.

Let's brainstorm this and figure out what Rizzo will do before he himself knows.