I’ve been a vocal proponent of the Washington Nationals rethinking this whole contention thing — probably much to the dismay of readers. I think this, in particular, is because of the dire farm system situation, as well as a number of free agent holes to fill — both working in conjunction with the fact that the National League East seems as though it may be the premier division in the National League.
As we move forward, I think we still must consider contention for the next year — maybe two — and longevity of organizational success. In my opinion, if Washington continues trying to go all-in, they’re sacrificing the future for the now. Ultimately, this might mean mediocrity reigning supreme at Nationals Park for years — perhaps even a decade or more — for the foreseeable future. It’s a dire reality which I suspect many wish to ignore, but it seems increasingly so that this might be the case.
As Chicago continues to sell away assets, it seems likely they’ll continue on that trajectory for the time being. The Cubs tried to maximize their window in many ways, just as the Nationals are trying to do.
It would make sense, then, to assume that Washington will find itself in the same situation in the imminent future.
The Nationals continue trying to fill holes, most recently with former Pittsburgh Pirate Josh Bell. As Zuckerman points out, Washington will try to remain competitive with an expensive and aging rotation for the most part. Looking around the rest of the division, the Atlanta Braves will likely continue to be the talk of the town, while the New York Mets have apparently turned an organizational corner, and if the Philadelphia Phillies can improve their bullpen, they’ll expect to be in contention for a playoff spot, as well; finally, the Miami Marlins will be a pesky presence among division contenders. It isn’t inconceivable that the Nationals could finish third or fourth in the division, which, of course, wouldn’t yield a playoff spot.
But the organization has reached a point of no return. There will be no teardown — or even restructuring — for the club this season. Perhaps it should be noted that, at the very least, the Nationals have picked a direction that they apparently wish to stick with. Not every organization can even say that much. For that reason, fans can appreciate the front office’s decision making. Further, at a time when teams vacillate between what they want to do and what they don’t want to do, the Nats have an outcome which they think is achievable and which they’re doing what they can to try to obtain.
I suppose that the only thing for fans to do is cheer for immediate success; after all, it may be a long way off before the Nationals are in a prominent contention spot again.