Let the offseason begin

If you're reading this, that means that Hurricane Sandy hasn't wiped out your power just yet. Let's hope it stays that way.

The chatter will never end regardless of what the calendar reads, but as of this morning, baseball is now over until the middle of February.

Count me among those not ready for it to go. I was hoping the Tigers would put up a fight and make the World Series interesting, or at the very least get us to a Game 5 and give Justin Verlander a chance to wow the sports world on the biggest stage.

Instead, it was a four-game sweep by San Francisco, giving the Giants their second World Series championship in three years. Quite an accomplishment by that bunch, even if the roster looks a heck of a lot different now than it did in 2010.

Buster Posey, in fact, is the only player who was in the Giants' starting lineup in the 2010 World Series that also was in San Francisco's lineup this year.

Congratulations to Xavier Nady, a guy who was released by the Nationals mid-season and then subsequently signed on with the Giants. He didn't step in the box or take the field at any point in the World Series, but he'll still get himself a pretty snazzy ring.

The conclusion of the 2012 season now means that the hot stove talk can officially begin.

For the next five days, teams will have exclusive negotiating rights with their free agents. For the Nationals, that list includes right-handed starter Edwin Jackson, left-handed reliever Michael Gonzalez, right-handed starter Chien-Ming Wang and infielder Mark DeRosa. It will also soon include first baseman Adam LaRoche, who will decline his end of a $10 million mutual option for 2013.

If a deal isn't reached in that five-day window, those players will hit the open market. The Nationals can still negotiate with any player listed above, but they'll obviously be competing with the other 29 teams for those players' services.

As I've mentioned, LaRoche will be the Nationals' top priority this offseason. They need to figure out where things stand with the 32-year-old going forward, and once they know if LaRoche will return, General manager Mike Rizzo can decide how the other pieces (Michael Morse, Tyler Moore, etc.) will fit in.

The Nationals will also be among the many teams searching for starting pitching this offseason. They could opt to bring back John Lannan for 2013, or they could non-tender the lefty and move on, looking to bring in one or more of the available starters on the market.

Relief help could also be in the cards, especially if Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny are not brought back. The Nationals could end up looking to add at least one left-handed reliever, although both Gonzalez and Gorzelanny pitched well enough this season to force the Nats to consider making them a part of the 2013 roster.

A couple veteran position players will also be brought in to add depth, and the Nats will likely look for someone who could serve a utility role of sorts, and play multiple infield positions.

Now that the offseason has begun, what do you view as the Nationals' biggest issue going into free agency? What area would you most like to see them improve?

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