WASHINGTON -- After winning their first National League East title, the Nationals look to improve even further when they head to Nashville, Tenn., for the Winter Meetings next week.
"We are coming off a year in which we won 98 games," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. "We feel good about ourselves. We are always looking to improve ourselves and to make ourselves better. We always have to look at the long term much more so than the short term."
The team's first priority is to re-sign first baseman Adam LaRoche, who is currently a free agent and wants at least a three-year deal. The two parties continue to have positive dialogue, according to Rizzo.
If they're unable to sign LaRoche, the Nationals most likely would insert Michael Morse or Tyler Moore at first base. Both players are first basemen by trade, but they played most of 2012 in the corner-outfield spots.
"If we can put Adam there, that's what we would like to do primarily," Rizzo said. "But we also have some options there if we can't get him signed. We are in an active negotiation with Adam. We had some good positive dialogue.
"We certainly respect the fact that he has earned the right to become a free agent and look what's out there. We have not made it a secret that he is one of the primary things we are trying to do this offseason. But it has to be a fit for us financially and control-wise, and that would mean the years. He has been our priority since Day 1, so we keep talking."
Jayson Werth did a great job from the top of the lineup last season, but he most likely will be back in the middle of the order if the Nationals can acquire a guy for the leadoff spot. Center fielder Michael Bourn is a free agent and could be a great fit.
This past season, Bourn scored 96 runs and stole 42 bases for the Braves. He is represented by Scott Boras, who has a great relationship with the Nationals' front office.
Washington is also looking for a starter who would join a rotation that includes Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann. The team could fill this need via trade or the free-agent market.
Don't be surprised if Rizzo tries to sign a veteran pitcher like free agent Zack Greinke. Rizzo tried to acquire Greinke from the Royals before the 2011 season, but Greinke used his no-trade clause to reject the deal. He ended up with the Brewers instead.
Keep in mind that Rizzo was able to acquire Gonzalez from the Athletics for four prospects late last year. Gonzalez, who finished third in the National League Cy Young Award vote, went on to win 21 games this past season.
It appears doubtful that the Nationals will re-sign right-hander Edwin Jackson, who had a 6.54 ERA during the final month of the regular season and was hit hard in the postseason against the Cardinals.
"We want to get a good quality pitcher. If it's via the trade market or via the free-agent market, we just need them to fit into our rotation, into our clubhouse, into our community and have the makeup and character that we look for in our guys," Rizzo said. "We want to get the best quality, most impactful pitcher that we can in here. We want to add a very good capable, young starting rotation."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats.