Washington Nationals Need To Start Looking Ahead To 2016
Despite salvaging a win Sunday afternoon against the Marlins, the Washington Nationals (72-70) sit 9.5 games back of the New York Mets (82-61) in the National League East. It does not get any better in the Wild Card Race, where the Nats trail the Chicago Cubs (82-60) by ten. Set-up man Drew Storen is likely out for the season, center fielder and true leadoff man Denard Span recently underwent surgery, and there are only 20 games left.
Rumors continue to swirl regarding manager Matt Williams’ job security, and impending free agents Jordan Zimmermann, Matt Thornton, Doug Fister, Ian Desmond, and Span all look to be wearing different uniforms in 2016. No team ever gives up when they still have a chance, however slim that chance may be, but the Nationals need to start shifting their sights toward next season.
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Young players like Trea Turner and Wilmer Difo, who look to play much bigger roles in 2016, need more reps before the season ends. Relievers like Matt Grace, Felipe Rivero, Rafael Martin, and Blake Treinen are likely to be competing for bullpen roles next year, and these last 20 games may be the Nats’ last chance of seeing them against full major league lineups. A decent draft pick, as well as compensation for one of their impending free agents rejecting a qualifying offer, likely waits in the wing. Washington has the chance to restock their farm system that has become too top heavy over the past three years.
The 2015 season is a disappointment, no matter what way you look at it. Nevertheless, this team still has the capabilities to compete in the years ahead. This lost season will join 2013 as nothing more than a missed opportunity and failure to live up to preseason expectations. Fingers can be pointed to poor management, an absurd number of injuries, and a supposedly “historic” pitching staff that could not match the hype, but no matter who is held accountable, the one thing that matter is the results. The very simple fact is they are just not very good.
The Nationals will enter the offseason with a lineup essentially already set, a stacked rotation with a lot of minor league depth, and two top tier relievers. General Manager and President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo won’t have many holes to fill as young players look to fill the voids left by departing veterans. The Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves will certainly still be rebuilding, and the Miami Marlins have a lot of work to do if they want to be contending. The NL East will be a two man race once again, and it’ll be up to the Nats to match New York. Only time will tell, but if history is any indication, the Nats will bounce back.
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