The Washington Nationals have the choice of staying the course or re-setting the franchise after 2018. These young players will impact that decision.
Even though the Washington Nationals are still fighting to wrestle away divisional control from Atlanta, it’s hard not to already have an eye on the upcoming winter, as the team enters maybe the biggest off-season in franchise history.
Harper is expected to command hundreds of millions on the market, and while Gonzalez and Murphy will both be 33 by the end of the year, they still have impressive track records that will likely net them eight-figure deals annually.
There is only a slim chance GM Mike Rizzo would re-sign all three players, as that would add roughly $50-$60 million to an already expensive payroll.
Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, Tanner Roark, and Sean Doolittle constitute the 2019 core, with any contributions from Adam Eaton, Victor Robles, and Juan Soto an added benefit. At least one of the pending free agents will also probably be back, but the roster has more question marks than any in recent memory.
While that core is still quite good, as we’ve seen so far to start the year, injuries and underperformance from at least one player are near certainties. Washington will go into 2019 relying heavily on that group, but that can’t be all the Nationals have.
That’s where Washington’s key youngsters come into the fold. Michael Taylor, Wilmer Difo, Pedro Severino, and Erick Fedde have all shown legitimate flashes of major league skill, but still have red flags preventing them from becoming everyday starters.
The Nationals can afford to ride out the inconsistencies of youth when they have a deep stable of talented vets; eventually, though, those young players need to grab the mantle once the veterans phase out of their current roles.
Robles and Soto are in the picture, but the Nationals need its former prospects to potentially bridge the gap between Harper and the Dominican Harper. The rest of the 2018 season for Taylor, Difo, Severino, and Fedde will go a long way in determining what moves Rizzo makes this winter.