The Washington Nationals are determined to win a championship. With a sharp focus on their needs, getting there is complicated.
If the first two true days of the offseason are any sign of what the Washington Nationals plan on, the defending National League East champions are truly aggressive.
Since the collective bargaining agreement came down, they cut ties with Ben Revere and nearly did with Danny Espinosa. The hope Derek Norris solves their catching issue. Oh yeah, Washington wants Andrew McCutchen. The team will mortgage the future to win now.
This is what teams that are impatient do. Here that is not a bad thing. Fans are tired of one-and-done trips to the playoffs. The front office is under pressure to change business as usual. Burdened now with the longest pennant drought in baseball, the heat is on.
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It also means moves happen that make fans uncomfortable. With three services profiling prospects and a healthy press coverage of the minor leagues, Nats fans value the farm system. Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon are examples of a team producing quality homegrown talent. The potential of losing a Victor Robles or Lucas Giolito stings.
Yet, they want to win now. Everybody is ready to turn the page. Lest we forget, Harper has two years of team control left.
Whether the window for success closes in two years is debatable as the team continues to draft young arms for the future. Future position prospects are less plentiful, especially if Robles goes, but drafting and teaching are thing the Nationals do well. General Manager Mike Rizzo sees a window now, and he must chase it.
After the Matt Williams managing experience went south, Rizzo feels he has his skipper in Dusty Baker. Although under contract for one more season, the two must know how much longer Baker wishes to work. Two more years may be Baker’s wish.
The team, as is, pushed the Los Angeles Dodgers to the deciding game of their NL Divisional Series and Clayton Kershaw to pitch on one day rest. We are not talking a radical makeover like the Miami Marlins did moving downtown in 2012. The Nationals want to ensure they have the best chance of winning a championship.
They identified Trea Turner needs to play short; the team wants a new centerfielder. Washington figures they need another established starting pitcher and a closer. With Revere off the payroll, they now have $26 million in flexibility to make all that happen. Scoring Norris for around $4 million to catch is a start.
Because the pace of change turns frenetic this time of year, we do not know how individual changes play in the big picture. As with the dreaded algebra word problems, solve for “x” is not clear yet.
At the moment, we know this is a team in transition. The Nationals will make moves that look desperate. The whole sausage-making process is ugly, and that is the hot stove league in a nutshell.
Whether this revamp is successful will not be known until at least October 2017 or 2018. Winning has a price. Be glad the Washington Nationals understand that and willing to pay it.