Your District On Deck writers debated major topics that the Washington Nationals are facing.
James and I got together to look at both sides of three important questions that Washington is currently debating.
Should Washington Continue Going All In?
James Simmons: In my opinion, I do feel the Nationals should continue to play as if they are a World Series contender. The division has gotten stronger, this is no secret. Though, the Nationals have a good core of talented baseball players who can still compete for a playoff spot. As they proved in 2019, all a team needs is a seat at the table. With the pitching staff this team has, they can make a run like they did two years ago.
With Max Scherzer’s contract coming off the books at the end of the season, the Nationals are afforded some leeway to spend some money this year. Mike Rizzo is on record saying he is going to field a championship-caliber team, or spend money trying. The priority is a power-hitting outfielder and a fourth starter. If the Nationals are going to compete, they’ll need to open the checkbook for these positions. I have written on this site before how teams can make it to the playoffs with light hitting catchers, so I am not worried about signing an offensive threat there. I also feel Ryan Zimmerman will be brought back, so whoever is signed to play first base will need to know they’ll be sharing some time with Mr. National. This limits the options some, I think.
All this to say, while the Washington Nationals are more than just one piece away from doing serious damage, they are a lot closer to being a playoff team, than the team who finished in the cellar in an injury-riddled 2020 campaign.
Washington needs to take a good look in the mirror and realize what is going on around them. Atlanta is the second-best team in the NL. New York has a new owner who is committed to finally building around ace Jacob deGrom. Miami made the playoffs for the first time since 2003 and is a year away from seriously contending. The Phillies have given mixed messages, but the signing of Dave Dombrowski shows that they are committed to competing.
Washington’s once stacked core has begun to dwindle. Gone are Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, and Anthony Rendon. Ryan Zimmerman is on the verge of retirement and Howie Kendrick decided to hang the cleats up last night. Yes, Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, and Stephen Strasburg are all still under contract. But the big three suffered a huge setback in 2020 due to injuries and inconsistencies. With a hampered offense, Washington cannot afford their greatest strength to struggle.
With holes at first, second, third, outfield, and the back of the rotation, Washington doesn’t have the money to properly fix each issue. Instead, they will need to have multiple patchwork signings just to stay afloat. The Nationals still lack a power bat behind Juan Soto in the lineup and that will take up close to half of Washington’s remaining $45 million. This is a completely different story if ownership allows Rizzo to go over the luxury tax. But then that will bring about a new set of problems.