The Washington Nationals are entering 2018 with an uncharacteristically high level of uncertainty. Here is why that is not an issue.
If the Washington Nationals‘ 2018 season were to be described in two words, fateful and uncertain would be the two best fits.
Obviously, the Nats have had lofty expectations for several years now, which they have failed to meet time and time again. With the window to win supposedly coming to an end, 2018 is an enormous opportunity that cannot be wasted.
Ironically, the Nats are entering their fateful season with an uncharacteristically high level of uncertainty. Some would say that this is cause for concern, but, in reality, it is not a big deal at all.
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The most heavily publicized uncertainty heading into 2018 is Bryce Harper‘s future with the Nats. This is Harper’s final season under team control, and he will presumably sign the most lucrative contract in the history of the game next winter.
Harper is a generational talent, so many fans are concerned over his whereabouts following 2018, but there is no need to fret over him yet. Victor Robles is a budding superstar ready to finally fulfill a major league role. Although losing Harper would be a monumental loss, the Nats are well-equipped to handle it.
Considering Harper’s outlandish contract demands, the case could be made that the Nats would actually be better off letting him go.
The more urgent uncertain aspects are regarding the remaining holes on the roster. Joe Ross is set to potentially miss all of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery last summer, and the Nats have not acquired a replacement.
As things currently stand, A.J. Cole, Edwin Jackson, Erick Fedde, and Tommy Milone are gearing up for a Spring Training competition to determine the fifth starter. Although none of these are big-name pitchers, like Nats fans have grown accustomed to, that is completely fine.
With the current state of the division, the Nats are all but guaranteed to make the postseason. FanGraphs, who is extremely conservative, has the Nats projected to win the division by 11 games. For reference, the Nats were projected to win the division by one game last year and won by 20.
The Nats’ catching situation is also in flux. Matt Wieters, who is coming off of the worst season of his career, is set to serve as the primary catcher. Longtime National Jose Lobaton departed for New York, leaving the Nats without a clear back-up.
Now, Miguel Montero, Pedro Severino, and Raudy Read are set to compete for the job. Although there is talk of possibly acquiring J.T. Realmuto, the Nats would be just fine addressing the hole with an in-house candidate.
While Realmuto would certainly be a welcome addition, it is not necessary.
All in all, the Nats are entering the season with much more uncertainty than they typically have. But, that is perfectly fine. Any holes that they have now can easily be addressed at the mid-season trade deadline.
As Mike Rizzo says, “The division is won in the off-season; the World Series is won at the trade deadline.”