We've learned that teams don't win based on how strong their offseason was. The 2013 Blue Jays and 2012 Marlins are recent proof of that.
We've learned that teams don't win based on how complete their team appears to be on paper. The 2013 Nationals taught us that.
Because of last season's disappointment in D.C., Nats fans probably won't get too excited about anyone declaring them the winner of the winter. It doesn't matter how strong your team looks in December or February. What matters is how your team is playing once the scores start to matter and the calendar turns from summer to fall.
That said, you ask around about how various executives and industry types feel the Nationals have fared so far this offseason, and you'll get an overwhelmingly positive reaction.
General manager Mike Rizzo entered the offseason feeling the Nats had three major needs on their roster - an experienced starting pitcher, a fourth outfielder (preferably one that hits left-handed) and a left-handed reliever.
He's filled all three of those needs, acquiring Doug Fister in a trade with the Tigers, signing Nate McLouth to a two-year deal and trading for Jerry Blevins to shore up the bullpen.
On the final day of the Winter Meetings, I asked one former big league general manager his thoughts about what the Nats had done this winter. He cracked a bit of a smile.
"I love the Fister addition," he said. "McLouth is a perfect fit for what they needed. And Blevins is a solid pickup. He won't light up the (radar) gun, but he has some (guts). Rizzo's done nice work."
Over the weekend, former Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, who now works for ESPN, graded the job that each team has done to this point in the offseason. He gave the Nationals an "A," one of only three big league teams to get a top grade.
ESPN.com's Jayson Stark listed the Nats in the "winners" column when assessing how the offseason has gone to this point, and quotes one AL executive who says the Nats are "a really good team that got better."
As I mentioned above, all of this means nothing. It doesn't guarantee the Nationals will be back in the postseason in 2014 after taking a step back in 2013, and it doesn't mean they'll make a deep playoff push. All it means is that those in and around the baseball community feel that the Nats have improved their roster and taken a step forward over the last couple months.
Take that however you choose.
Meanwhile, FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal reports that with the Astros trying to add a first baseman, they could look to the Nats' Tyler Moore, who Houston manager Bo Porter obviously knows from his time as third base coach in D.C.
The Nats like Moore's power potential and feel that he could be a capable big league bat, but he's not currently an essential part of their plans. Moore is the leading candidate to grab what could be the final spot on the Nats' bench (assuming McLouth, Scott Hairston, Danny Espinosa and a backup catcher are the other four), and he's good insurance if Adam LaRoche gets hurt, but if the Nats get what they feel is a fair trade offer, they'd likely be open to the idea of dealing Moore and going another direction with that final bench job.
LaRoche has a $15 million mutual option for 2015 that's unlikely to be picked up, so the Nats could have an opening at first base, but it's unclear whether Moore would be viewed as a top candidate to take over at that spot. Moving Ryan Zimmerman to first is a possibility, and if that isn't the move the Nats make heading into 2015, they might want a more proven major league option over at first.
In essence, the Nats won't give Moore away because he provides nice depth at first base and could be a potent bat off the bench. But if the Astros called and presented an offer, I bet Rizzo would listen.