As of last week, when he spoke to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies, Washington Nationals’ GM and President of Baseball Ops Mike Rizzo said the front office was just beginning the process of conducting their autopsy of the 2017 campaign and moving forward with their plans for 2018.
“Early on in this offseason, it’s hard to see what direction we’re gonna go in,” Rizzo said, “... but we have a plan put in place. We’re just in the beginning portion of going over 2017, our autopsy for ’17. See what went right, what went wrong, what depth we have in the minors and where we’re going, and we’re gonna put a battle plan together and meet with ownership, let them know what we’re gonna do and try and make this team better than it already is, and it’s pretty damn good right now.”
With a new manager in place, and most of Dave Martinez’s staff hired, the Nationals can now focus on building the roster for 2018.
“This team doesn’t lack much, it really doesn’t,” Martinez told reporters after he was introduced as the Nationals’ new skipper. “I think we’ve just got to get over the fact that we’re not here just to win a playoff game, we’re here to win the World Series.”
With a World Series championship the stated goal from the top down after the Nats’ four division titles in the last six seasons and four disappointing NLDS exits, there is going to be plenty of pressure on everyone from Rizzo to Martinez on down to get to the next level this season in what could be the last run for this iteration of the roster in the nation’s capital.
Rizzo’s contract is up after the 2017 campaign. Bryce Harper is set to become a free agent if he isn’t extended at some point before the end of the 2018 campaign. Then there’s Daniel Murphy, whose three-year deal expires after this season.
With the architect of the organization, the No. 1 overall pick in 2010, who’s also one of the most talented young players in the league, and the runner up to the NL batting title in the first two seasons of his three-year deal in D.C. all question marks for the future heading into a “World Series or Bust-ish” campaign, where should Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office start?
Should the Nationals try to extend Harper one last time this winter before the start of the 2018 campaign?
Should the Nats try to extend Harper at all, locking up a big portion of their payroll in one player?
Stephen Strasburg signing in the early months of what would have been his walk year was a surprise, but a player-driven decision in the end according to the pitcher and his agent, Scott Boras, who also represents Harper. It doesn’t seem likely that will happen again, so is this winter the Nationals’ last opportunity to lock the 25-year-old Harper up to a long-term deal?
Should the Nationals try to extend Murphy this winter, after two seasons with the Nats in which he’s put up a combined .334/.387/.569 line and been worth 9.8 fWAR? Will the soon-to-turn 33-year-old, who played seven seasons in NY and the last two in D.C. want to hit free agency again or will he want to stay in Washington?
Do the Nationals need to add a starter behind Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark, and Gio Gonzalez? Do they need a catcher who can split time with Matt Wieters, who exercised the 1-year/$10.5M player option in his contract and will return to D.C. in 2018 or will they give prospect Pedro Severino (or maybe Raudy Read?) a shot at the backup job?
They need some bench players and bullpen arms as well. Which area of need will Rizzo and Co. in the front office attack first?
And speaking of Rizzo, will the Nationals’ owners, who have watched their GM turn the franchise into a perennial contender since taking over full-time in 2009, make sure he’s locked up before other teams get an opportunity to try to lure him away?
Rizzo and the rest of the MLB GMs are in Orlando, FL this week for the start of the 2017 General Managers’ Meetings, and the Nationals’ brass is set to get together in West Palm Beach to discuss what Rizzo and Martinez expect from the new coaches heading into the 2018 campaign. It all starts... RIGHT NOW.
Where should they start? What’s the biggest need for the Nationals? Expect any big surprises this winter?