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Nats could be wild card this Hot Stove season

Moving on from Werth, upgrading at catcher among offseason questions
MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- With most of their team intact for next season, the Nationals could be something of a wild card this offseason. They have few obvious weaknesses on their Major League roster, and they could decide to hunt for bargains and improve team depth. Or they could decide to make a big splash in free agency to help get their team over the hump.

Here is a look at where the Nats stand as free agency begins:

WASHINGTON -- With most of their team intact for next season, the Nationals could be something of a wild card this offseason. They have few obvious weaknesses on their Major League roster, and they could decide to hunt for bargains and improve team depth. Or they could decide to make a big splash in free agency to help get their team over the hump.

Here is a look at where the Nats stand as free agency begins:

Free agents: OF Jayson Werth, RHP Brandon Kintzler, IF/OF Howie Kendrick, 1B/LF Adam Lind, IF Stephen Drew, C Jose Lobaton, LHP Oliver Perez, RHP Edwin Jackson and RHP Joe Blanton

Arbitration-eligible: RHP Tanner Roark, 3B Anthony Rendon

Hot Stove Tracker

Biggest potential free-agent loss
Werth has been a team stalwart and leader on and off the field during his seven years in Washington. He helped usher in an era of success for the Nationals, who won four division titles in six seasons. However, as he hits free agency, his time in D.C. seems almost certain to end, considering the emergence of Michael A. Taylor this past season and the outfield depth throughout the organization. While Werth's on-field production has declined in recent years, moving on from him still represents a potential franchise turning point.

Potential free-agent targets
The one obvious place the Nationals could explore an upgrade is at catcher. Washington's catchers combined to produce -1.1 Wins Above Replacement in 2017 and 53 wRC+, both the worst in the Majors. The market for catching upgrades is slim, however, and Matt Wieters exercised his $10.5 million player option for '18. Since Washington has significant money already locked into one catcher, it is unlikely to make a large commitment to another. Other targets will likely include pitchers -- both starters and relievers.

Video: WSH@ATL: Wieters smacks RBI single to left field

Wild card scenario
The top four starters in Washington's rotation are set to return next season, which means they should continue to have one of the best starting staffs in the Majors. However, the Nationals have continued to build on pitching through the years, and they could enter the free-agent market if they believe they can find a top-of-the-rotation starter at a bit of a discount.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals