As of today, the Nationals almost certainly have their eight starting position players in place, barring some kind of shocking trade.
They definitely have their top four starters set in stone now that Doug Fister is on board, and have a lengthy list of hurlers who will compete for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, including Ross Detwiler, Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan, Ross Ohlendorf and Nathan Karns.
We know how the back end of the bullpen will look, with Rafael Soriano returning as closer and Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard in place as the set-up men.
Jerry Blevins has been added as a left-handed reliever who can also serve as a bridge to the late-inning guys. Craig Stammen is set to return to his role as a valuable multi-inning right-hander, someone who is versatile enough to enter in the third inning should a starter struggle, or work the seventh if Storen or Clippard need a day off.
The reserve outfielders are in place, with the newly acquired Nate McLouth ready to serve as a left-handed-hitting option who can play any outfield spot and provide some pop and speed off the bench, and Scott Hairston coming back to again be a power-hitting right-handed option in the late innings.
After that, the rest is still kind of up in the air.
Assuming Soriano, Storen, Clippard, Blevins and Stammen are part of the opening day roster, that likely leaves two bullpen spots up for grabs.
Other than McLouth and Hairston, the final three bench spots will be determined in spring training.
Manager Matt Williams has said that, in a perfect world, he would like two left-handed relievers in the bullpen. If Detwiler doesn’t get the final spot in the rotation, he could be the second southpaw in the ‘pen, and Xavier Cedeno will compete for that job, as well. On the right-handed side of the bullpen, Ohlendorf is probably the favorite to win a job as a long reliever if he doesn’t earn the No. 5 spot in the rotation, but Roark, Karns, Ryan Mattheus, Erik Davis and Christian Garcia are also options there.
As for reserve options in the infield, the Nats are giving every indication that they want Danny Espinosa to win the job as the backup middle infielder. General manager Mike Rizzo also said at the Winter Meetings that Espinosa could back up Ryan Zimmerman at third base.
Tyler Moore is the favorite to serve as the backup first baseman, but his lack of experience at third base and struggles off the bench in 2013 will be working against him.
The Nats say that they’re comfortable with either Jhonatan Solano or Sandy Leon backing up Wilson Ramos behind the plate, but Solano and Leon have combined for just 114 big league at-bats in their careers and don’t provide much offensive firepower.
So that’s where things stand at this point. The bulk of the roster is in place, but there are still a few holes to fill. Some will get filled internally, be it Espinosa winning a bench job or Ohlendorf taking one of the final spots in the bullpen. But it still appears likely that the Nats will make a move or two to add depth to the roster and give Williams an outside option to fill a roster spot.
My question to you guys is this: What one move would you still like to see Rizzo make to improve this club before pitchers and catchers report?
You can respond any way you choose, but try and make your answer a reasonable one. Responding with, “Trade Denard Span for Michael Morse” is pretty much just a waste of time. (I should now prepare to get 12 “Trade Denard Span for Michael Morse” comments.)
Do you want to see the Nats sign another proven left-handed reliever? Do you want an experienced backup catcher, or a left-handed-hitting corner infielder? How about a veteran middle infielder that can compete with Espinosa in spring?
Those are just a few suggestions. I’m curious, though, as to what you all still see as the Nats’ main need at this point in the offseason. Let me hear what you’ve got.