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Inbox: What is Nats' greatest need for 2014?

Beat reporter Bill Ladson answers Nationals fans' questions

I've been an Expos/Nationals fan since 1969. I rank this year among the most disappointing and right up there with those years when we were teased with greatness by some of those Expos teams. What do you consider the team's greatest need in the offseason?
-- Marvin M., Calgary, Alberta

Like a lot of people, I thought Washington had a good chance to go to the World Series this year. The Nationals must fix a couple of things heading into next season. First of all, they need to add dependable left-handers to the bullpen. Their biggest mistake was letting Tom Gorzelanny and Michael Gonzalez go. With the exception of Xavier Cedeno, the Nats struggled to find solid left-handed relief.

I also think Washington needs to revamp its bench. Of the bench players it has now, Scott Hairston and Steve Lombardozzi are the only players I see coming back.

The back end of the rotation needs fixing, too. Is Ross Detwiler going to stay healthy? Can Tanner Roark or Taylor Jordan be one of the starters? The Nationals will give them both a chance to join the rotation in 2014.

Do you think Adam LaRoche will be traded after this season? In my opinion, he is a solid first baseman.
-- Jada R., Bowie, Md.

A month ago, I thought LaRoche would be dealt, as Ryan Zimmerman looked like he may need to be switched to first base because of his throwing problems at third. However, Zimmerman looks so much better at the hot corner now, and I think LaRoche will remain at first for the 2014 season.

Why don't the Nationals sign Michael Morse? He has been injured, and they could get him for a cheap price.
-- Max B., Santa Fe, N.M.

That's not going to happen unless Morse agrees to be a bench player. I think he wants to play every day. Morse may stay with the Orioles.

Is Cal Ripken Jr. managing the Nats next year just a rumor or a realistic possibility?
-- Darryl T., Washington

There is nothing to that rumor. I believe the Nationals will hire someone general manager Mike Rizzo is familiar with. I don't know yet who that will be, but I don't think it's going to be Ripken.

Do the Nats have any interest in signing Robinson Cano?
-- Tom, Chile

With Rizzo around, anything is possible. But I don't see the Nationals giving Cano a 10-year contract worth $305 million. I see them sticking with Anthony Rendon as their second baseman.

How about Jayson Werth as player-manager next year? It worked for the Senators, after all, with Bucky Harris and Joe Cronin.
-- Michael L., Washington

There is no question that Werth has strong opinions and would make a great manager. However, I'm not sure if he wants that role. I'll ask Werth this weekend and let you know what he says in a notebook item.

What do you think is the main cause of the Nats' struggles this season, and do you think they will be better next year?
-- Ryan M., Cheltenham, Md.

The first order of business is to stay healthy. Losing Bryce Harper for more than a month was rough. I don't think they need to change the starting eight position players, but they need a better bullpen and bench.

I also think the Nationals need to get St. Louis out of their heads. After getting swept by the Cardinals this week, it was clear to me that they are not over losing to them in the 2012 National League Division Series. We'll see how it goes next year.

At this point, how would you handicap the likely 2014 Nats managerial candidates?
-- Wes E., Arlington, Va.

I would say Randy Knorr is the favorite. Not only was he successful in the Minor Leagues, but he also managed a number of current players while they were on the Nationals' affiliated teams. Matt Williams has come up as a candidate, as has Trent Jewett. Rizzo hasn't said anything, but I'm sure we'll find out soon enough.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats.
Read More: Washington Nationals, Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon