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Inbox: Will Nats sign Ohtani, bullpen help?

Beat reporter Jamal Collier fields questions from fans
MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- The Hot Stove season has gotten off to a slow start across Major League Baseball and the Nationals are no exception. Once the club completed the hiring of its coaching staff, it has not made any additions to the roster for next season.

Still, there are a few questions to consider for the latest Inbox.

WASHINGTON -- The Hot Stove season has gotten off to a slow start across Major League Baseball and the Nationals are no exception. Once the club completed the hiring of its coaching staff, it has not made any additions to the roster for next season.

Still, there are a few questions to consider for the latest Inbox.

• Submit an Inbox question

Is there a realistic shot at Shohei Ohtani? What would the plan be if they did get him?
-- @funnydanny via Twitter

The odds are probably not great. Yes, earlier this week general manager Mike Rizzo outlined his sales pitch for Shohei Ohtani and the Nationals did respond to the questionnaire the Japanese star sent to all 30 Major League teams. It's hard to find a reason why any team wouldn't want to make its pitch to Ohtani, who, because of international signing rules, many around baseball will view as a bargain. He can throw a fastball that has reached 100 mph and is a power-hitting outfielder.

:: Shohei Ohtani coverage ::

At 23 years old, Ohtani is as enticing and exciting of a superstar to hit the open market in a while. Plus, he will be limited to a signing bonus that can be at best $3.5 million. The Major League team that signs him will also owe his Nippon Professional Baseball team $20 million. Fitting him in would be easy too; he could slide in as the Nats' fifth starter and either be part of an outfield rotation when he is not pitching or Washington could use its surplus and trade an outfielder.

The issue for the Nationals -- and a reason I believe their chances of landing Ohtani are slim -- is they can not match other teams' spending power because of their limitations in international spending. The most the Nats can offer Ohtani in a signing bonus is $300,000. Even if Ohtani is not looking out primarily for money, that is a significant gap. Teams with a bigger budget such as the Yankees or Rangers could offer nearly $3.5 million. Also, while certainly not out of the question, the Nats paying the $20 million sum to his NPB team would be a little out of character in comparison to their normal spending habits.

So Washington is unlikely to be a strong contender for Ohtani unless he finds the team's response to the questionnaire particularly enticing.

What is the Nationals' level of interest in the Braves prospects who were released? Obviously, Kevin Maitan is of particular interest, but I'd be interested to hear about others.
-- @ZackMatt4 via Twitter

Similar to the Ohtani questions, the Nationals don't have the bonus money to make a significant push for the recently released Braves prospects. The most Washington can offer prospects is also $300,000, and other teams will be able to offer more money. So their limits in international spending will hinder the Nats again.

What position do the Nationals need to pay attention to most this offseason?
-- @TheDCBullpen via Twitter

I've thought the biggest need will be in the bullpen. Yes, this time the Nats have the back end of the bullpen set with Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson both signed, but they are lacking in depth behind them. Adding another strong middle reliever or two would be key to the construction of a strong and reliable bullpen -- which, as we have seen in recent years, has made a big difference during the postseason.

What's the plan with Robles?
-- @JPFinlayNBCS via Twitter

The Nationals want Victor Robles to play every day in 2018. Rizzo has also confirmed that Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton and Michael A. Taylor would be the starting outfielders if the season began today. That would indicate that Robles is set to begin the season at Triple-A Syracuse, barring injury.

Video: WEST@EAST: Robles gets lead, shows big speed on steal

Robles, ranked as the club's top prospect and No. 2 overall in MLB according to MLBPipeline.com, made strides last season to make the Majors and make the postseason roster. Still, the Nats want him to develop more as a hitter before he is ready to be an everyday Major League player. Robles can certainly force the action by playing well, but he will likely begin the year in the Minors even though he is still likely to become an everyday outfielder for the Nationals at some point soon.

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

Washington Nationals