The Washington Nationals are in a tough spot. They’ve signed some prominent names to longer term deals, like Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin. They’ve also got some young, controllable talent, like Juan Soto and Trea Turner, the latter to a lesser extent. But on the flip side of that, there’s not much within the organization to fill out a competitive roster in the imminent future, which leaves the front office scrambling to fill the ranks of the team with free agent veterans.
That leaves the Nationals in a weird state of limbo, which is a frightening place to be in. It’s at this juncture that an organization needs to understand its next move in perfect clarity. Do you begin to tear down? Or do you attempt to build up? There are arguments to be made for both, certainly. With only 60 regular season games separating the Nationals from a World Series title, it might be hard to swallow an organizational tear down; conversely, trying to stay in the winner’s circle without the proper assets could trigger a state of extended mediocrity – a phenomenon fed by not being bad enough for high draft picks, in addition to struggling to get anything more than middling major leaguers on the open market.
A rebuild would mean trading away any and all assets at the major league level, with the exception of a few, which includes players like Max Scherzer, as well as lifer Strasburg and relative newcomer Corbin. If that’s the route the organization decides to travel – and the route I’m partial to believing to be the right choice – then they need to mobilize immediately. There’s no time to wait around and continue to fill out the roster with older veterans who may or may not be productive members of the team while the farm continues to sputter along in a state of depletion.
The organization hasn’t shot itself in the foot yet, but it could be headed in that direction. By all accounts, the front office wants to continue to try to be competitive. That makes some sense, as they try to go all out before Scherzer’s contract is up and while Strasburg and Corbin still have time left as high-level, productive major leaguers. Go ahead and throw Turner on that list, as well, since the shortstop is going into his age 28 season come 2021. Of course, Soto is great and will continue to be for years to come. It just may be the case that the Nationals won’t be all that competitive when his prime comes around.
But if the Nats insist on going for another world championship anytime soon, i.e. the next year or two, then I suppose they better go all in on free agents over those two seasons. It’s going to take a lot of spending in order to get this team into championship shape. It’s doable, but not without running the risk of an imminent state of despondency once the title runs conclude. If this is the route they’re sold on, then Nats fans better try to enjoy it before the darkness comes knocking at the front door. At this rate, it’s coming.