Washington Nationals: 5 things they must do in 2018

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Daniel Murphy #20 of the Washington Nationals reacts after scoring on an RBI single by Michael Taylor of the Washington Nationals against the Chicago Cubs during the eighth inning in game five of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Daniel Murphy #20 of the Washington Nationals reacts after scoring on an RBI single by Michael Taylor of the Washington Nationals against the Chicago Cubs during the eighth inning in game five of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) /
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FILL THOSE HOLES

Washington has puzzled fans by not spending money on either a free agent starter or catcher. Although the late move signing Jeremy Hellickson added depth to the rotation, pitchers such as Jake Arrieta and Lance Lynn signed elsewhere without a peep from DC.

Unlike last off-season when the Nats promised to be aggressive, the conservative approach this year is correct. With a payroll already over the competitive balance tax, the money was not there to spend. Sure, Arrieta would make the rotation historic, but not at $30 million plus.

Although A.J. Cole is not an ideal playoff starter, he fits the back of the rotation well. But, if we get into July with a tighter divisional race than expected or an injury, Rizzo will need to act.

Also, if Matt Wieters slows down as the summer moves along, they cannot rely on either Miguel Montero or Pedro Severino if they are hitting under .200. An automatic out at the tail of the lineup hurt Washington last fall.

Creative July deals solidified the bullpen last year and brought Kendrick to Washington. Expect the same this year.

With potentially $70 million coming off the 2019 payroll, the Nats can splurge at the deadline and avoid the penal taxes levied if they violate the tax a third straight season.