I’ve got some good news if you were a fan of the makeup of the 2012 Washington Nationals: There’s a very good chance that the 2013 Nationals won’t look a heck of a lot different than they did this season when the Nats went on a run to their first National League East title.
The Nats enter the offseason with only two players who were on their National League Division Series roster definitely bound for free agency: right-handed starter Edwin Jackson and left-handed reliever Michael Gonzalez.
Right-handed starter Chien-Ming Wang and infielder Mark DeRosa, who were left off the National League Division Series roster, and left-hander Zach Duke, who signed a minor league deal with the Nats this spring, will also become free agents again.
Two others are likely to join them on the free agent market once they decline their end of a mutual option for 2013: first baseman Adam LaRoche (who will pass on a $10 million option) and left-handed reliever Sean Burnett (who will probably decline his $3.5 million option).
That leaves the Nats’ potential 2013 roster looking much like their 2012 roster. Of course, trades can always complicate things, as can players being non-tendered. But as things stand right now, the Nationals appear to have seven of their eight starting position players already locked up for next season, at least four starting pitchers holding spots in the rotation and the vast majority of their relievers set to return.
Even if the Nats don’t make any major splashes in the free agent market, their payroll for next season will almost certainly increase in 2013, for a couple reasons.
General manager Mike Rizzo will make an attempt to bring back LaRoche, and given how much the 32-year-old first baseman enjoyed his time in D.C., the odds of the two sides reaching a multi-year deal appear fairly likely.
Additionally, the Nats have a number of players who could be in line for a raise for next season via salary arbitration.
With the help of baseball-reference.com, here is the list of Nationals who are arbitration eligible this offseason:
C Jesus Flores
SS Ian Desmond
OF Roger Bernadina
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
LHP Ross Detwiler
LHP John Lannan
RHP Ryan Perry
RHP Craig Stammen
LHP Tom Gorzelanny
RHP Tyler Clippard
Rizzo might attempt to lock up guys like Desmond and Zimmermann to long-term deals, buying out their arbitration years and a few free agent years, as well. Such a deal would give the player financial security and allow the Nats to keep their emerging, young talent in the organization for a handful of years to come.
Looking at a couple other names in that group above, it’s tough to see a spot for Flores with the Nats next season, given the acquisition of Kurt Suzuki and the fact that Wilson Ramos is expected to be recovered from his knee surgeries by the time spring training rolls around.
It will also be interesting to see what happens with Lannan, who could be in line for the No. 5 spot in the rotation but could also a non-tender candidate, giving him a fresh start with a new organization.