LAS VEGAS -- The Nationals had been one of the most active teams in baseball this offseason before the start of the Winter Meetings, and yet they leave Las Vegas with some new questions to answer. They traded away one of the stalwarts of their rotation by shipping Tanner Roark to the Reds for righty Tanner Rainey on Wednesday, and they left the door open on a reunion with Bryce Harper or a potential contract extension with Anthony Rendon.
Even though the Nats appeared to have finished most of their shopping before the Winter Meetings began -- adding Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes at catcher, Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough in the bullpen and signing left-hander Patrick Corbin -- it is clear they are not finished tweaking their roster.
And that includes potentially re-engaging in talks with Harper, the proverbial door that no one seems willing to close.
"I never close the door on those type of things," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "And we haven't yet."
BIGGEST REMAINING NEEDS
1. Starting pitching: It's unusual for a team that already signed the best free-agent starter on the market to have starting pitching still as its top need, but that's where the Nats stand after trading Roark. Their rotation behind the trio of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Corbin is extremely thin and unproven, so the Nats are looking to add one or two starting pitchers.
2. Second base: At the start of the offseason, the Nats downplayed the need to upgrade at second base, but this week it became clear they have interest in improving at that position. They reached out to DJ LeMahieu and will continue to explore the market at second base to see if they can find a fit they like.
3. Building a bench: The Nats want to get younger and more athletic and their bench will likely reflect that next year. Instead of a left-handed power bat as a backup first baseman, they might find a more versatile player who can play both first and second base. But the Nats are still building around the periphery of their roster and they need to address their position-player depth.
RULE 5 DRAFT
The Nationals did not select or lose anyone during the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft. During the Minor League portion, they selected outfielder Chuck Taylor from the Mariners system. Aside from providing endless opportunities for shoe puns, Taylor should help add outfield depth within the organization, which is key after the Nationals sent Daniel Johnson to Cleveland in the Gomes trade.
GM'S BOTTOM LINE
"I like the roster that we have currently. I think we'll score runs in a different manner. We'll play the game in a different manner than we did last year, probably. But I still think that the upgrade at different positions, and the upgrade in defense will help us play the game better." -- Rizzo, on how the Nats could look different in 2019