At this point in the winter, the Nationals have (presumptively) filled most of the needs on their shopping list. They traded for a pitcher in Tom Gorzelanny - though he's certainly not the ace they were hoping to get at the beginning of the offseason - and they've added possible bench contributors in Rick Ankiel, Jerry Hairston Jr., Matt Stairs and Alex Cora. They've fortified their bullpen with Henry Rodriguez and Todd Coffey, and they replaced Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham with Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth, though time will tell whether that swap leads to a better team.
However the team looks once the season starts, we have a pretty good guess at the roster the Nationals will likely field on Opening Day, barring any injuries or surprises. It's without doubt the most settled team the Nationals have had going into spring training since they came to Washington. Without further ado, here's my guess at the roster:
Jerry Hairston Jr.
STARTING PITCHERS (5)
Now, there are a couple problems the Nationals are going to run into this spring, most of them having to do with the consideration that influences decisions every spring: options.
The Nationals have a slew of pitchers who are out of them, meaning if they try to send, say, Henry Rodriguez, Gorzelanny, Coffey or Balester to the minors, they must expose the player to waivers and run the risk of losing him. They won't need a fifth starter until April 10, so the Nationals could postpone one of these decisions by sending Zimmermann or Lannan to the minors for a week.
Yunesky Maya has options, and I also wouldn't be surprised if the Nationals stash Chien-Ming Wang on the disabled list to start the year. But none of this says anything about pitchers like Elvin Ramirez, Garrett Mock and Brian Broderick, who could all be lost if they don't make the team. Mock would likely clear waivers, but Ramirez and Broderick are both Rule 5 picks; the Nationals liked Ramirez, in particular, and might try to work out a trade for him. There are a couple of ways the Nationals could start the year with an eight-man bullpen, delaying one of their decisions by a week or two.
As for the position players, the one name here that sticks out to me is Gonzalez; he's also out of options, but doesn't seem as necessary now that the Nationals have Hairston (and Cora, who could be waiting in the minors). They might want to keep two backup infielders, especially since Gonzalez was so good at third base last year, but I'm not sure what value he provides other than his glove. It's possible Matt Stairs could win his spot. I see Jesus Flores starting the year in the minors to prove he's fully recovered from shoulder surgery, unless he's so good in spring training that he takes the second catcher's spot from Ramos.
So that's my early guess at the roster. Let me know what you think. Any changes you'd make, or questions you have? Post them in the comments section below.