Hello, Washington Nationals fans! It’s finally that time of year again – time for Major League Baseball players to brush the mud off their cleats (wait, who am I kidding – they all get new shoes each spring), rub some oil on their gloves (do they get new gloves too?), and grab a new bucket of shiny white baseballs (with some residual mud from the Delaware river). Spring Training starts this week, and the Washington Nationals have a lot to look forward to and a lot to live up to as well.
After a heartbreaking loss to the San Francisco Giants in the National League Division Series last year, the Nationals had a busy off-season, wheeling and dealing for players to strengthen their already hefty roster. Here is a list of what went down for the Nationals during baseball’s “Hot Stove” season:
- Washington’s General Manager, Mike Rizzo, made a trade to acquire infielder Yunel Escobar from the Oakland A’s in exchange for set up man Tyler Clippard. Clippard, a two-time All-Star, has been one of the most consistent late-inning relievers in the majors since arriving in D.C. in a trade with the Yankees in 2007. That trade was a hard pill to swallow – even my 10-year-old son was sad to see Tyler go. Escobar is expected to play second base, because everyone in the Nationals organization has finally accepted the fact that Danny Espinosa just can’t hit.
- Regarding the strongest starting rotation in the National League, the Nationals still have it. The Nationals signed free agent and 2013 AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer for a gazillion dollars in a seven-year contract, so now they have six quality starters. That’s quite a dilemma for the Nationals, so the rumor is that Tanner Roark will move to the bullpen. Roark had a a 15-10 record with a 2.85 ERA and 1.093 WHIP in his first complete season as a starter last year, so it’s a shame to see him move to the role of long reliever.
- Also in the bullpen, free agent Casey Janssen was signed to replace Clippard as the set-up man for closer Drew Storen, which basically means that in a close game in the ninth inning, we will be sitting at the edge of our seats and will have pulled all our hair out by the end of the season.
- Franchise player Ryan Zimmerman will be making the move across the diamond from third base to first, filling the vacancy left by Gold Glover Adam LaRoche. This keeps Silver Slugger Anthony Rendón at third base and veteran Ian Desmond at shortstop for (most likely) his last season as a National.
- Also during the off season, right fielder Jayson Werth had arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder, which means he probably won’t be ready for the start of the season. Werth is rumored to be moved to left field so he gets less wear and tear on his 36-year-old body, which means they will probably move Bryce Harper to right field. Harper needs to grow up and show up and prove that he can play consistently without throwing any tantrums.
So as you can see, the Nationals promise to give us an interesting season this year, especially if they can all stay healthy. If the starting pitchers can stay as commanding as last year, the batters can consistently drive in more runs and stop leaving so many runners on base, and the bullpen can avoid giving us all ulcers, it should be another successful season. The experts are predicting that the Nationals will have the best record in baseball, which is nice, except that doesn’t mean anything in the post-season (ahem, look at last year!). So being successful for 163 games is one thing – can the Nationals make it to the post-season again and this time not choke in the first round? We’ll have to wait and see!