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Nats, Astros share new park, same expectations

February 24, 2017

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- They have everything. But do they have enough?The question pervades the state-of-the-art scene where the Astros and Nationals -- two win-now teams with new facilities but one obvious source of roster uncertainty apiece -- get ready for 2017.• Spring Training infoThe Ballpark of the Palm

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- They have everything. But do they have enough?
The question pervades the state-of-the-art scene where the Astros and Nationals -- two win-now teams with new facilities but one obvious source of roster uncertainty apiece -- get ready for 2017.
Spring Training info
The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches has everything a player could possibly need to prepare, and more. From the swimming pool on the Nats' side to the Astros' especially efficient layout plan, no expense was spared, no detail was ignored, and moving to this area of Florida -- a close distance from the Spring Training sites of the Mets, Cardinals and Marlins -- makes for a drastically improved exhibition schedule situation, too.
"I don't even consider Port St. Lucie or Jupiter to be road games," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "We'll wear gray uniforms, but that's about the extent of it."
The upgrade in conditioning conditions befits two ballclubs that were especially aggressive this offseason.
The Astros owned November, with their free-agent forays that landed Josh Reddick and brought back Carlos Beltran and their trade that netted Brian McCann. There aren't too many, if any, deeper lineups in the American League.

The Nationals are similarly well-stocked. As easy as it is to focus on what they gave up to get Adam Eaton (a package fronted by pitching prospects Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez), don't forget what they got -- an athletic spark plug who allowed Trea Turner to move to his natural position at short, and will pair with Turner in a dynamic twosome atop the order. That move was a surprise, and so was Tuesday's agreement with Matt Wieters on a two-year contract that improved the offensive outlook behind the plate.

But the offseason work of these two clubs was just as striking for what didn't happen.
Namely, Washington -- with Albertin Chapman, Mark Melancon and Kenley Jansen -- didn't satisfy its perceived weakness in the ninth. And Houston -- with Chris Sale, Chris Archer and Jose Quintana, among others -- didn't land a legit top-of-the-rotation starting arm after a season in which injuries sent its starting five spiraling south.
And so with each workout, each drill, each point of preparation on these sparkling new fields, the question is worth asking:
They have everything. But do they have enough?
Dusty Baker isn't afraid to ask that question. He values having a "proven closer," and though he sees a lot of appeal in a couple linchpins from the 2016 'pen (Shawn Kelley and Blake Treinen), a young and unproven power pitcher (Koda Glover ) and a onetime great looking for one last shot (Joseph Nathan ), he's not about to claim the Nats are just fine in the ninth.
Durability is a question with Kelley, who has had two Tommy John surgeries. Consistency is a question with Treinen, who is not far removed from some serious lefty struggles. Experience is a question with Glover. And age is a question with the 42-year-old Nathan.

"We have to see," Baker said. "Since we don't have a set guy, we're looking to get in that situation. And once we do know, then it's subject to change anyway, depending on how they perform."
Until that time, the trade speculation -- specifically revolving around White Sox closer Player Page for David Robertson -- won't go away.
It won't go away on the Astros' side, either. They coveted Quintana all offseason and could still work out a package built around their top pitching prospectFrancis Martes between now and Opening Day.
Or perhaps Martes will win them over in a camp in which 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel and high-upside right-hander Lance McCullers will build up endurance after injuries (Keuchel's shoulder and McCullers' shoulder and elbow) affected and abruptly ended their 2016 efforts.

Like Baker with the bullpen, Hinch can't promise you all is hunky dory with his rotation. But he can promise you that Houston, which added Charlie Morton over the offseason, will have quality on hand.
"Health will help," Hinch said. "The return of health is a big deal. And then some pitch execution. We have different styles this year. We fell into a trap a little bit of having similar styles, similar game plans. So you bring in Morton with the heavy sinker and you have some guys who are going to compete in the back end [Martes, David Paulino, Joe Musgrove and Mike Fiers] that are stylistically a little bit different."
For both the Nationals in their bullpen and the Astros in their rotation, quantity is not an issue. And quality is certainly not an issue in their shared spring home.
They have everything. But do they have enough?

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.