Heading into the offseason, there's little doubt the Nationals' biggest need is in their starting rotation; general manager Mike Rizzo has said his top goal is to improve the rotation, and despite a number of young pitchers the Nationals are excited about, there's still no top-of-the-rotation presence the team can count on.
Had Stephen Strasburg been healthy heading into 2011, the Nationals might well have had their ace. But they obviously won't; the right-hander is rehabbing his elbow after Tommy John surgery, and wouldn't be ready to return to the majors until September at the earliest.
The construction of the Nationals' 2011 rotation, then, will have a different look, though general manager Mike Rizzo wouldn't allow that Strasburg's absence will drastically change the team's plans.
"I think it affects it to a point," Rizzo said. "We certainly weren't looking at putting all our eggs in the Strasburg basket anyway in 2011. But he certainly was a vital cog in the rotation going forward. We certainly have to plug it into our offseason for 2011."
Rizzo said he is "not sure" how aggressive the team will be in the offseason.
"We want to see how the season will finish up, and we're going to make a game plan for the winter," Rizzo said. "I know what our shortcomings are, and I know we have to do some things to fix it."
Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang could be part of the solution; he is still working out with the team's instructional league group in Viera, Fla., and will be pitching in games there. Wang is arbitration-eligible after the season, and Rizzo has said he hopes to work out a deal with Wang's agent, Alan Nero, before the arbitration deadline.