WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have been in this difficult situation before, with the task of taking a dominant division winner that came up short during the postseason and finding ways to improve it.One of the biggest changes will come in the dugout after Washington made the decision to hire Dave
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have been in this difficult situation before, with the task of taking a dominant division winner that came up short during the postseason and finding ways to improve it.
One of the biggest changes will come in the dugout after Washington made the decision to hire Dave Martinez as its manager to replace Dusty Baker after two years and consecutive National League East titles.
Other than their new manager, the Nats should be prepared to return nearly all of their major pieces in 2018 for a team without any glaring weaknesses. But general manager Mike Rizzo is always prepared to make a deal he believes will make his team better, even when there is no obvious need. That should make this Hot Stove season interesting in D.C., with the possibility of a surprise move always looming.
Free agents: Outfielder Jayson Werth, righty Brandon Kintzler, infielder/outfielder Howie Kendrick, first baseman/left fielder Adam Lind; infielder Stephen Drew, catcher Jose Lobaton, lefty Oliver Perez, righties Edwin Jackson and Joe Blanton
Arbitration-eligible players: Righty Tanner Roark, third baseman Anthony Rendon.
Who will fill out the coaching staff?
The Nationals believe Martinez is the right man to lead them to the World Series, but the first-time manager still needs to surround himself with a coaching staff. Baker had years of experience in baseball to draw on to recruit a new staff, so it will be interesting to see if Martinez pulls from people in his past or if the Nats help him find experienced coaches around the league. Washington will certainly need a new pitching coach after Mike Maddux agreed to join the Cardinals' staff, but the Nationals also value continuity. So perhaps some of Baker's staff could stay with the organization in some capacity.
Will the Nationals upgrade at catcher?
The Nationals' offense was so good at times last year that it presented few glaring weaknesses -- except for behind the plate, where most of the at-bats went to Matt Wieters, and he struggled mightily in his first season in Washington. Wieters owns a player option that he seems almost certain to accept, so the Nats will either have to rely on a bounce back from Wieters -- maybe with increased playing time from their catching prospects Pedro Severino and Raudy Read -- or explore the market for an upgrade.
How will the Nationals address their depth?
The starting lineup and most of the starting rotation is all but set. However, one of the reasons the Nationals believed the 2017 team was the best in team history was because of its depth. They had hitters such as Lind and Kendrick to use off the bench as weapons and a former closer in Kintzler in the bullpen to back up their two most prominent relievers. That depth will be tested this offseason with all of those players set to test free agency. Whether the Nats can retain any of them or how they go about replacing them will be key to rounding out the roster for next season.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.