Is the Nationals’ 2021 roster now in place?

They got the first baseman they needed. They got the corner outfielder they wanted. They got the No. 4 starter they desired. They got the left-handed reliever they coveted. They brought back the face of the franchise for another season. And now they got the No. 2 catcher they were lacking.

The Nationals went into the offseason with a clear checklist, and though it took a while for the wheels to get into full motion, they’ve now checked off every box on the list, capped by Thursday evening’s signing of veteran catcher Alex Avila to a one-year deal.

So that begs an obvious question: Are they done? Is this the roster the Nats intend to field to open the 2021 season?

Before we attempt to answer that, let’s break down the roster as currently constructed, so we can see what is now in place and what perhaps might still be needed. Here is a potential 26-man opening day roster, with multiple names in a few spots to account for spring training competitions ...

LINEUP
SS Trea Turner
RF Juan Soto
1B Josh Bell
LF Kyle Schwarber
2B Starlin Castro
CF Victor Robles
C Yan Gomes
3B Carter Kieboom

ROTATION
RHP Max Scherzer
RHP Stephen Strasburg
LHP Patrick Corbin
LHP Jon Lester
RHP Joe Ross/Erick Fedde/Austin Voth

BENCH
C Alex Avila
1B Ryan Zimmerman
INF Luis García/Jake Noll
INF-OF Josh Harrison
OF Andrew Stevenson

BULLPEN
LHP Brad Hand
RHP Daniel Hudson
RHP Will Harris
RHP Tanner Rainey
RHP Wander Suero
RHP Kyle Finnegan
LHP Sam Clay/RHP Kyle McGowin/RHP Dakota Bacus
RHP Austin Voth/Erick Fedde/Joe Ross

OK, so there are still some undecided spots. There’s a bench spot, likely an infielder, that could go either to García or Noll, or even someone who hasn’t yet been acquired. There are multiple bullpen jobs that are completely open for competition (and there are more names in the running than listed above). And technically the fifth starter’s job is undecided, though Ross figures to be the frontrunner heading into spring training.

But if they wanted to, the Nationals could field a 26-man roster right now and feel reasonably satisfied with it. But would it be enough? Would that be the roster they’re ready to put out there every night in a highly competitive National League East in search of a division title?

Your opinions may vary. Some may think there are enough sure things combined with enough potential to win 90-plus games. Some may be convinced there’s still something lacking.

Kieboom-Throw-Gray-Sidebar.jpgAnd that something that may still be lacking is pretty clear: a more accomplished third baseman.

Seven of the eight starting positions on the field are set in stone. Barring injury, we can say definitively who’s going to take the field on opening day - with one exception: Kieboom.

The Nationals have believed in their 2016 first-round pick from the day they drafted him. They’ve touted him as a long-term piece to the puzzle and one of the next generation of homegrown talent to lead the franchise.

And Kieboom may yet prove to be just that. But it’s impossible to say with any sense of confidence today he will realize his potential. We simply haven’t seen enough of it at the big league level to know for sure.

That’s the dilemma general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Martinez face. There’s not a whole lot of money left to spend on a more-established third baseman, not without coming awfully close to Major League Baseball’s luxury tax threshold and hindering opportunities to add players in-season if needed.

But if Kieboom doesn’t pan out, you can see how it creates a significant hole in the lineup, and there isn’t an obvious alternative already in house. Sure, the Nationals could give García a chance to play every day as they did last summer once Castro broke his wrist. But the 20-year-old is no sure thing, either. And his inclusion in the lineup would require him or Castro to play third base, with the other at second.

The 2021 lineup is improved, but it still lacks the depth of the 2019 championship lineup. And it relies on some less-than-sure things to carry the load, from Kieboom and Robles to Schwarber and Bell. One more proven bat would certainly help a lot.

That’s the one remaining move we could still see. If they have the financial ability and can find the right guy, the Nats could still cap their offseason with one more significant transaction.

If not, then you’re already looking at the roster that’s going to report to West Palm Beach, perhaps in as little as three weeks.

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