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Nats have foundation to be contenders in 2015

SAN FRANCISCO -- Although they were eliminated from the National League Division Series by the Giants with Tuesday's 3-2 loss in Game 4, the Nationals are expected to be contenders for several years. The rotation is set for next season, with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann leading the way, while Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond will be mainstays on offense. 

"'We have a lot of talent, good ballplayers that are under contract and coming back," Desmond said. "The window isn't closed. It's important to look past this, go to Spring Training and be ready to go."

But the team still has a lot of decisions to make. Players such as first baseman Adam LaRoche, second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, reliever Rafael Soriano and leadoff hitter and center fielder Denard Span could be free agents after the World Series.

LaRoche had another productive season for the Nats. He and the team have a mutual option for $15 million for 2015. But there are questions about LaRoche returning, because there is talk that Ryan Zimmerman could play first base starting next season.

Asked if he played his last game as a member of the Nationals on Tuesday, LaRoche said, "I hope not. Time will tell on that, and we'll see what direction they want to go. If it is, it was a blast. It's a time I will never forget. I don't regret any of it."

Cabrera said recently that he wanted to play shortstop. But he spoke a different tune after the loss to the Giants. Cabrera said he wants to finally get to the World Series and doesn't care what position he plays.

"A team like this, if they let me play second, I would love to stay here," Cabrera said. "I just want to win. I want the team to win. I have eight seasons [in the big leagues] already. Now I want to be in a World Series one day."

Span has an team option for $9 million for 2015, and that is expected to be picked up. He arguably had the best season of his career, leading the team in hits and batting average.

If Soriano had finished a combined 120 games over the last two years, he would have a contract for 2015. But he missed the mark (106) and most likely will not be with the team next season. Drew Storen most likely will hold onto the closer job he reclaimed toward the end of this past season.

One area the Nats will want to improve is their bench. Pinch-hitters had a .144 batting average with five home runs and 18 RBIs for Washington in 2014.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.
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