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Nationals Rumors: Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo and Co. try to get it right in 2017

With the Hot Stove heating up and the rumors and signings picking up, a look at what motivates the Washington Nationals.

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals H.Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports

So just how desperate are the Washington Nationals this winter?

How do they view the 95-win season they completed in 2016, which saw them win the division for the third time in five seasons and then lose in the NLDS for the third time in five seasons? As a disappointment?

In talking about his feelings on how the season came to an end in an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies late last month, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said that the ultimate goal was to win a World Series and they fell short.

“There’s only one team happy at the end of the season and we’re hoping it’s going to be us in the near future,” Rizzo said.

“We’ll strive to do better next year and put together a team that can challenge to win a World Series, that’s our goal and we fell short this year.”

If you believe the reports you read out there, like the one New York Post writer Joel Sherman wrote earlier this week, the Nationals are “poised to blow up baseball’s hot stove,” with aggressive moves to put themselves in a position to once again play in meaningful games on October.

Multiple reports say they are at least interested in Chicago White Sox’ lefty Chris Sale.

An NL source quoted in Sherman’s article says the Nats are intrigued by the possibility of signing Yoenis Cespedes again, after making a run out the outfielder last winter.

The same source says free agent outfielder Jose Bautista could interest the Nationals, who, “... had interest in Bautista during the summer,” since they are rumored to be, “... looking for a right-hand power bat.”

They also have some decisions when it comes to the bench, as Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes noted today.

They are reportedly in the market for a new everyday catcher with Wilson Ramos a free agent, and the back end of the bullpen is a question mark again now that Mark Melancon is a free agent.

So will the Nationals trade Gio Gonzalez as executives in the NY Post article suggested?

Will the Nats deal from their prospect depth to solve some of these issues?

In an interview on the MLB Network’s Hot Stove show last week, Rizzo said, “there’s a lot of action on our players.”

“There’s usually a cluster of seven or eight players in your minor league system that more or less everybody likes. They like a lot of our young major league players.”

What has rival executives thinking the Nationals will take an aggressive approach to building their roster for 2017 and beyond?

Joel Sherman provided a number reasons in his article.

Max Scherzer is at or near the top of his game, Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy are locked up through 2018, and Anthony Rendon is under team control through 2019.

The division is winnable now with rivals like the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins in various stages of building or rebuilding.

While New York, Sherman writes, “should remain formidable... the Nats want to keep their roster superior,” as they try to compete with the Mets, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants and try to get past the NLDS for the first time.

And, finally, Sherman adds, “owner Ted Lerner is 91 and – as the [Detroit] Tigers have tried to do with their aging owner, Mike Ilitch – the Nationals badly want to win in Lerner’s lifetime.”

Are Mike Rizzo and Co. in Washington’s front office making decisions with their owner’s legacy in mind? It’s unlikely, but the desperation to win is real after three division titles and three disappointing postseason showings. And if they can do it sooner than later...