Nats plan for quiet offseason to get louder

December 12th, 2017

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Members of Washington's front office began outlining their plans for the 2017 Winter Meetings on Monday after general manager Mike Rizzo arrived late in the afternoon, preparing for a flurry of meetings over the next few days that the Nationals are hoping will produce activity in what has thus far been a quiet offseason.

Although their roster is nearly set, the Nationals do have a few needs they would like to address. They need a fifth starter, are searching for right-handed relievers and need to build a bench. However, after being in the middle of nearly every major move during the Winter Meetings a year ago, the Nats are expected to search for minor additions this time around to add to a team coming off consecutive postseason appearances.

"We want to add to our depth not only in the rotation but in the bullpen," Rizzo said, "and just kind of do our stuff along the periphery of the roster."

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Rizzo does love to seek value and has been known to make a deal he believes can make his team better even when there is no apparent need. Perhaps the easiest way for him to do that would be to add a starting pitcher.

The Nats do not have a clear fifth starter, which has led to some speculation that perhaps they could be interested in acquiring someone. Traditionally, the Nats have added to the top of their rotation rather than the back end, but Rizzo maintained that he would be comfortable with either A.J. Cole or , the team's No. 4 prospect as rated by, as their fifth starter.

"We have great confidence in our in-house options," Rizzo said.

One area where the Nats are not seeking improvement is catcher. Matt Wieters exercised his $10.5 million option to return to Washington next season, and the team believes he is due to bounce back. Rizzo reiterated the plan to play both Wieters and to get maximum production from that position.

The Nats are expected to be active in the relief market as well. A few options have found new teams recently -- and Luke Gregerson reportedly signing with the Cubs and Cardinals, respectively, and Pat Neshek signing with the Phillies -- but Rizzo said those deals will not push him to make a move soon.

Rizzo also confirmed that the Nats are not operating under any payroll restrictions. Washington went over the luxury tax last season for the first time in team history, but Rizzo said he has not been given any instructions to remain under that threshold. Although he can not spend widely, money should not be an issue in any of his offseason dealings.

"There's no hindrance [when it comes to] improving our club any way we think possible," he said. "Obviously, we're going to be prudent on what we spend and who we spend it on, but we've never had a mandate to stay within a certain number, and we don't going into this season."