It has now been 41 days since the Nationals last added or subtracted a player from their 40-man roster. (It was the Danny Espinosa trade to the Angels, for those wondering.)
That’s an awfully prolonged period of radio silence for any major league club, but the Nats aren’t alone in this regard. It’s been an unusually slow-developing offseason across baseball, with a bunch of prominent free agents still unemployed even though we’re closing in on three weeks til pitchers and catchers report for spring training.
(By the way, it’s probably a good time to mention that I’m leaving town later today and will be off until Jan. 30. That should all but guarantee Mike Rizzo makes some kind of huge transaction in the next 10 days, right? Rest assured, Byron Kerr and Pete Kerzel will have you covered right here in my absence.)
Don’t confuse the Nationals’ lack of moves with disinterest in making moves. They’ve been looking at available relievers for weeks now, not to mention position players who could bolster their bench. To date, they simply haven’t found a player they want at a price they deem appropriate.
But let’s just suppose for a moment they don’t acquire any more major league players before the start of spring training. Would they be able to assemble a legitimate 25-man roster? And who would be included?
Here’s how such an opening day roster might look...
Michael A. Taylor
The answer is: Yes, they could assemble a legitimate opening day roster as-is. But that doesn’t mean this potential roster is good enough for their tastes.
The rotation, as we know, is strong, though it lacks quality depth if somebody goes down. The lineup is strong, with all eight starting jobs solidified at this point. And the bench is decent, though a downgrade from last year’s group with Stephen Drew still unsigned.
The least-inspiring unit on this roster is the bullpen, which should come as little surprise. The Nationals lost closer Mark Melancon, left-hander Marc Rzepczynski and veteran right-hander Matt Belisle to free agency, and they have yet to acquire any big leaguers to fill those spots. Which means Dusty Baker would be left to choose a closer from an assortment of promising-yet-unproven arms: Kelley (a veteran, but one with only minimal closing experience), Treinen, Solis and Glover.
The lack of an experienced closer, though, might be less of a concern than with the lack of depth in this bullpen as currently constructed. Kelley, Treinen and Solis all were very effective last season and should be expected to be effective again. But Perez remains an enigma who can look great one night and awful the next. Glover, Cole and Gott, meanwhile, have loads of potential but very little actual track record at this level. It would be a lot to ask all three of those young right-handers to play significant roles right out of the chute in April.
Which is why common sense says the Nationals are going to acquire another experienced reliever or two before this is all said and done. A closer would be great, but that’s not even a requirement. A guy with experience pitching the sixth and seventh innings of major league games would be helpful himself.
There are still plenty of those kind of guys out there, some who will require major league contracts, some who could probably be had on minor league deals with no guaranteed money involved.
So don’t be surprised if the Nationals address that need sometime in the near future. Perhaps even before the next time you hear from me.