The Nationals’ roster isn’t complete, but it’s in good shape

December 18, 2012

(Jonathan Newton/WP)

Two months from now, which somehow seems both far away and right around the corner, the Nationals’ pitchers and catchers will already be in full swing at spring training. The full complexion of their roster will be decided by what happens between now and then, most notably with their choices on signing Adam LaRoche, dealing or keeping Michael Morse and tweaking the bullpen.

But already, a week before Christmas, you do not have to squint very hard to see the makeup of the Nationals. Their competitive prosperity has changed the way they go about their offseason, and vice versa. In years past, the Nationals still contained gaping holes at this point in the winter, and the January scramble for minor league free agents made a significant impact on their roster.

This winter, though, the Nationals’ 25-man roster appears to be pretty much set. They still have questions, even aside from the big one about Morse and LaRoche.

Do the Nationals keep Christian Garcia in their bullpen or keep the starter experiment going at Class AAA? If they decide he’s a set-up man, is there a trade to make from their stockpile of right-handed relievers? How important is another lefty in the bullpen? Do they feel comfortable enough about Corey Brown to deal Roger Bernadina to an outfield-desperate team?

(Speaking of LaRoche: The Baltimore Sun reported yesterday that the Orioles have “legitimate interest” in him. And LaRoche would be an ideal fit for that team. But, as the Sun report noted, the Orioles are hesitant to sign him because of the first-round draft pick they would forfeit. As we mentioned yesterday, the draft pick loss any opposing team signing LaRoche would incur is a major benefit to the Nationals’ chances of re-signing him.)

They have plenty of good players, which means they have plenty of choices. But it is easy to envision how the Nationals could come together on opening day, which is something that you couldn’t say about the Nationals at this stage of the winter in many years past. Here’s a rough glimpse at where they stand now:

LINEUP

1. Denard Span

2. Jayson Werth

3. Ryan Zimmerman

4. Bryce Harper

5. LaRoche/Morse

6. Ian Desmond

7. Danny Espinosa

8. Kurt Suzuki

ROTATION

9. Stephen Strasburg

10. Gio Gonzalez

11. Jordan Zimmermann

12. Ross Detwiler

13. Dan Haren

BULLPEN

14. Drew Storen

15. Tyler Clippard

16. Ryan Mattheus

17. Craig Stammen

18. Zach Duke

19. Christian Garcia

20. Henry Rodriguez

BENCH

21. Wilson Ramos

22. Roger Bernadina

23. Tyler Moore

24. Steve Lombardozzi

25. Chad Tracy

The Nationals, even before rummaging for non-roster invitees, also have quality depth on their 40-man roster. Corey Brown would be a fourth outfielder on a lot teams, and Eury Perez would probably crack a couple opening day rosters. Chris Marrero is somewhat of a forgotten man, but he’ll be further removed from the torn hamstring that limited him last year, and he’s still well-regarded inside the organization. Anthony Rendon, despite a lack of experience, could be knocking on the door by midsummer. If he’s not, Zach Walters could provide extra infield help, with the athleticism to perhaps become a utility man.

A couple years ago, all of those players would be in the running for roster spots, or perhaps even starting positions. Now the Nationals simply do not have the room, another reminder of how things have changed. This is how things work for a World Series contender.

Adam Kilgore covers the Nationals for The Washington Post.
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Adam Kilgore · December 17, 2012

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