Once again, there seems to be little reason to doubt that the Nationals will end the season as the NL East champions. They're somewhere in the realm of a unanimous pick to win the division. This is in part because the Phillies and Braves are believed to be about a year away from competing, the Mets are flawed and injury-riddled, and the Marlins are implementing Project Wolverine. At the same time, they have studs at several positions, arms to spare, and some exciting upside guys. It's the same core group that quietly won 97 games last year and 95 the year before that.
Once again, everyone is just going to be waiting for that first Best-Of-5 series to see whether they can get over the metaphorical hump (https://www.mlb.com/news/dave-martinez-brings-camels-to-nationals-camp/c-267470018). Despite not being outscored in their last three playoff series, they have failed to win any of the four since the franchise was rechristened. That shadow will loom larger as October draws near. If it weren't for the Dodgers and Indians failing to get over their own humps, the Nationals post-season failure would be a bigger deal outside of DC.
It's Bryce Harper's last year on the books. Another story that will flare up every team the Nationals play a big market team with space in the outfield. It's also the last year on the books for Gio Gonzalez, Daniel Murphy, Ryan Madson, Matt Wieters, and Shawn Kelley. So while the Nationals have enough in the cupboard to be good in 2019, it starts to drift into the too many variables conversation with all the aforementioned other franchises.
Their starting pitching is still excellent. Scherzer and Strasburg are a top flight 1-2. Gio and Roark are solid behind them. A fifth starter never emerged last year but things still worked out. The bullpen tire fire that began 2017 no longer haunts the team. There are some health concerns with older vets like Zim and Murphy. Eaton is back from major surgery. Catcher seems to be a hole itching to be rectified by a midseason move (rooting for a Wilson Ramos encore). Dave(y) Martinez is going to be a little different than anything DC has had in the dugout to date. In my opinion, it's the guy they should have hired in 2014 but here we are.
But I think this team is too talented not to win 90+ again in a sub-par division. And I don't buy any of the "not gritty enough to win in the playoffs" bullshit. The Cubs were seasoned, defending champs when they eeked it out against the Nationals in a weird Game 5. Then they got dunked on in the next round by the Dodgers. The most talented team in baseball with flair and a dude that posed on a single to the outfield. The Dodgers were talented and seasoned after 5 straight division titles and then they lost to the Astros. Houston was a smart, young, and super-talented team that had never won a playoff series. None of this shit makes any sense. People just make it up as they go and then mold narratives looking back.
I figure, one of these years has to work out. And if it doesn't, fuck it. What am I going to do? Not devote 6 months of my life to obsessively watching grown men play a kids' game for a team whose name bears the city where I was born? Not likely.
2. "I think that Yankee train left the station" In response to Reply # 1
With Judge and Stanton already on the books for a long time and other holes to throw money at.
I think the Nationals chances of signing him are stronger now than they have been in a while. Mostly because the off season market was so unbelievably tepid this year, it feels less likely anybody is going to go north of $300 million when two years ago baseball people were floating $400 million. It will take a long time for these things to come to light, but I suspect that there's a chance he already turned down the best offer he will see anywhere from the Nationals sometime in the last year or two.
That said, Harper seems to want to break the bank. And if he wants to break the bank, there is not a whole lot of assurances anywhere. You have to imagine that the Cubs, Dodgers, Phillies, Red Sox, and Cardinals are right there in the mix. But there's always a mystery team out there. Like when the Diamondbacks swooped in and gave Greinke 6/$206.5 in his opt out year. It would be really cool if the Nationals signed him because generational talent doesn't come along very often, but nobody ever really felt like he was going to be here forever.
3. "this season will be spectacularly good or bad..." In response to Reply # 0
...there won't be any middle ground. as with any season, avoiding injury will be key. and if players don't perform up to their averages or regress, then it could be a long season until the offseason speculation noise becomes front and center.
you also forgot to add that Rizzo hasn't received his extension thus far. the sooner this is resolved, the better.
let's say everyone leaves. Harper, Gio, Murphy, Wieters, Madson and Kelley...all gone. the look of this team will change DRASTICALLY!!! i anticipate more short-term FA signings because the farm system doesn't quite have the prospect depth it once did.
but the Dominicans are coming. each year, they climb up another rung on the ladder. the Nats have a lot of quality Dominican players in Rookie and A leagues, but it might take years for them to hit the majors. the talent level does drop off in AA and AAA.
whether they win it all or not, this is a pivotal year for the franchise.
4. "I definitely forgot about Rizzo" In response to Reply # 3
For the long term outlook of the franchise, he's probably more important than Harper. He's assembled a contending team through a mix of draft, trade, and free agency. He's landed big fish, he's pulled off trades that left people scratching their heads, he's rolled the dice on high picks and hit, and found some serviceable guys outside of the Top 5 rounds. A couple contracts didn't quite work out like we might have hoped but overall, he's been about as good as anyone in baseball since he took over. The issue now becomes if he wants to get paid like it and the Lerners have to dig deep which might not be something they're interested in.
Long season but here's to a fun ride! What we got starting the season:
-New Manager -bullpen set from Day 1 (difference a year makes) -Injured players returning (Eaton and Murphy at some point) -MAT...I want to see how he responds to being 'the man' from jump with no true competition for his spot - and the elephant.....Bryce contract!
9. "About everything that series should have been" In response to Reply # 0
Reds aren't good, but they took three on the road. Three good starting outings. Bullpen was fine. Lots of different offensive contributors. Infield defense is going to be a thing at times this year.
I'm quietly rooting to win tomorrow in Atlanta en route to taking 2/3 because it will put the Nationals in position to be a wire-to-wire division champion, which is something that they have never done.
21. "Infield and starters after 1-2" In response to Reply # 19 Tue Apr-10-18 12:32 AM by Call It Anything
The OF and C spots are really solid. Especially at the plate. deGrom and Synerdgaard are great. I think Harvey and Matz are damaged goods.
Bullpen is kind of unknown. Familia had a bad year last year, could be a fluke or a trend. Gsellman and Lugo are moving out of the starter role, I feel like Gsellman will play better but question marks. Blevins should be good. Ramos I don't trust.
But in the infield, there are 3 guys who past their prime, though Cabrera is still pretty serviceable, and a 22-year old who is still probably a year away from figuring it out.
I think they could compete for a wild card if they're healthy, I just don't see a 90 win team there.
22. "Well, my hand is hovering over the panic button" In response to Reply # 0
Starting pitching has been good. Bullpen hasn't been bad. But the line-up isn't healthy and the guys that surprised last year (Zimmerman, Taylor, Difo) aren't really pulling their weight. They're looking to drop to 8-10 and a full 7 games back in the division.
Murphy and Rendon will be healthy soon. Maybe Eaton soon-ish. Until that happens the team is left treading water hoping the Mets come back down to Earth. Damn if this don't feel like 2013.
Harper, Trea, Rendon and Eaton playing 40 more games a piece than last year will be an overall net improvement. Harper and Rendon have some legit injury history, so it's no given, but the lineup should be fine in the end.
Zimmerman and Taylor were bad for long stretches last year. figure they'll continue to run hot and cold due to one's old age and the other's style. if they both fall off a cliff the rest of the bats should be able to mitigate it.