Given the state of the Nationals’ roster going into this offseason, general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson could have essentially run out pretty much the exact same team in 2013.
They could have left Bryce Harper in center field and put Michael Morse in left. They could have kept Jayson Werth as their leadoff hitter, given the high on-base percentage Werth put up last season in that spot.
They could have offered Edwin Jackson a qualifying offer or made an effort to re-up the veteran starter to a new deal. They could have brought back either Sean Burnett or Michael Gonzalez to be a late-inning lefty in the bullpen and extended a contract to Tom Gorzelanny as the left-handed long reliever.
Rizzo opted to go a different route, however. He traded for center fielder Denard Span, giving the Nationals a more traditional speedster at the top of their batting order and a guy who can cover lots of ground defensively. That move will allow Werth to move down at least one spot in the batting order (if not more, depending on how Johnson chooses to slot things) and likely bump Harper into the No. 3 or No. 4 spot.
The Span deal also leaves Morse without a clear spot on the Nationals’ roster, making it likely that the 30-year-old slugger finds himself wearing another team’s colors come opening day.
Rizzo also signed veteran righty Dan Haren to a one-year deal to round out the rotation, a signing which has the potential to be a steal, but is a bit of a risk given Haren’s back and hip issues over the last year. Gone are Burnett, Gonzalez and Gorzelanny, replaced by Zach Duke and possibly Bill Bray.
While the Nats’ offseason moves have gotten praise around the league from opposing teams’ front office members and various national media types, there seem to be a contingent of Nationals fans that wish that Rizzo hadn’t done so much tinkering with the roster.
This is, after all, a group that finished the 2012 regular season with the best record in baseball and won the National League East for the first time in team history. It’s also a group which lost Werth, Morse, Wilson Ramos and Drew Storen for long stretches due to injuries last season.
That contingent of fans (however large it may be) might argue that if the Nats perform to the level they did last year, stay a bit healthier and have a full season of Stephen Strasburg, there’s no reason to believe this group won’t make an even deeper push into the postseason in 2013.
Look about 45 minutes up I-95, however, and you’ll find a group of Orioles fans who have the exact opposite take on their team’s offseason approach.
The Orioles have not made many changes to their roster to this point in the offseason, and it looks likely that they’ll go into spring training banking on last year’s playoff team having similar success with the same pieces in place this season.
It’s two different mindsets: One mindset is that a team should never rest on its laurels; it should always be looking for ways to improve its roster from one season to the next. The other mindset is that you shouldn’t mess with a good thing, and if a team had success with a certain group one season, that group should be given another shot, if possible, the next.
There’s not necessarily a right or a wrong approach for a general manager to take. All Rizzo can do is follow his gut and do what he feels is in the best interest of the ballclub. He clearly feels the team is better with Span in center and atop the batting order, Adam LaRoche at first base, Werth and Harper down in the order and Haren toward the back of the rotation, even if that means Morse and Jackson aren’t back in 2013.
Do you share that mindset? Do you like Rizzo taking a chance and making moves to tweak the roster of last year’s NL East champions, or would you have prefer he let things remain the same in 2013?