What's left to do? (Nats avoid arbitration with Strasburg, Storen, Fister)

As of 5 p.m. yesterday, the Nationals had eight arbitration-eligible players with whom they still needed to finalize contracts for the 2015 season.

As of this morning, that number is down to four.

As my colleague Pete Kerzel noted last night, catchers Wilson Ramos and Jose Lobaton, right-hander Craig Stammen and second baseman Danny Espinosa all have agreed to terms on deals for 2015, avoiding arbitration.

This leaves just right-handers Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister and Drew Storen and left-hander Jerry Blevins as the Nats' lone unsigned arbitration-eligible players.

Finalizing contracts with those four is one of the things on Nats general manager Mike Rizzo's to-do list before the Nats report to spring training. But what else is on that list?

desmond-harper-happy-white.jpgWell, things could still go any number of ways with Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond or Fister, three Nationals who are entering their walk years. Rizzo could, in theory, sign any of those three players to a long-term contract in the next handful of weeks, or could end up trading any of those three players.

A third option, of course, is that Zimmermann, Desmond and Fister all remain on the team and play out the 2015 season under their current contracts. So this could go a few different directions.

Beyond that, the Nats' most pressing need at this point, after the trade that sent Tyler Clippard to Oakland in exchange for Yunel Escobar, appears to be bullpen help.

That's not to say that the Nats couldn't stand pat with the current bullpen options that they have in-house. As we discussed yesterday, Storen, Matt Thornton, Aaron Barrett, Blevins, Stammen, Blake Treinen and others could end up handling the load themselves. But with Clippard and Rafael Soriano now gone (as well as Ryan Mattheus), there isn't as much depth there as there used to be.

The Nats appear set from the left side with Thornton, Blevins, Xavier Cedeno and Matt Grace, but they might look to add another proven right-handed arm to provide more depth. Heath Bell is in the mix after signing a minor league contract a couple of weeks ago, but another move could still be coming.

Rizzo might also still be looking to bolster his bench with another minor league free agent, although there are quite a few guys already on board who will be competing for what could be the final bench spot in spring.

Lobaton, Kevin Frandsen, Espinosa and Nate McLouth are likely to be four of the five bench guys, but Michael A. Taylor, Tyler Moore, Mike Carp and Ian Stewart could all factor into a competition for the last slot.

As Rizzo said in his conference call with reporters yesterday, members of the Nats' front office aren't taking any vacations between now and the start of spring training. They're still looking for ways to improve the ballclub and give manager Matt Williams as much talent to work with as possible.

As of right now, however, the to-do list doesn't seem to be too long. Not that it was all that long to begin with.

Update: The Nats announced this morning that they have avoided arbitration with Strasburg, agreeing to terms on a contract for 2015. It is reportedly worth $7.4 million. That brings their total of unsigned arbitration-eligibles to three - Storen, Fister and Blevins.

Update II: Now that number is down to two. The Nats just announced that Storen has also avoided arbitration, agreeing to terms on a one-year deal. The deal is reportedly worth $5.7 million.

Update III: The Nats agreed to terms with Fister on a one-year deal reportedly worth $11.4 million this afternoon, leaving only Blevins unsigned.

All arbitration-eligible players had until 1 p.m. to sign contracts for the 2015 season or else they and the team had to formally submit a salary figure to the MLB league office. The sides are free to still negotiate a contract before having the case heard by a three-person arbitration pannel, but the league will set February hearings for any unsigned players.

Catch three "Nationals Classics" this week on MASN...
Stammen joins Ramos, avoids arbitration (Espinosa,...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.masnsports.com/