Now, who are the biggest winners of the offseason? Maybe the Blue Jays or the Angels. Maybe the Dodgers, with ex-Nats president Stan Kasten looming as a deepest-pocket Washington rival.
But, now, with the addition of Soriano, right-hander Dan Haren ($13 million for ’13), center fielder Denard Span (in trade for a prospect) and the return of Adam LaRoche, the big winner might also be the Nats. After all, none of those other clubs are building off a 98-win base.
The MLB executive with the biggest capacity for run-silent surprise now may be Rizzo. No one anticipated his $126 million signing of Jayson Werth. His four-for-one Gio Gonzalez trade and February addition of Edwin Jackson last winter came out of the blue. Almost no one, except The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore last week, had analyzed the logic of Soriano as a Nat.
Now, Rizzo has a roster with every player also under team control for the 2014 season, too. Only a couple can leave in 2015. That’s almost unheard of.
Is the bullpen big enough for Soriano, in his 12th big-league year, as well as Storen and Clippard? Or will team chemistry be a casualty? Is this a show of limited confidence in Storen, already stunned by final game loss? Will Rizzo use Michael Morse plus a reliever as building blocks in another big but perhaps destabilizing trade? The Nats have so many useful pieces that almost any deal can be constructed, at least in fantasy.
But that’s probably what it is: just a fantasy. It’s actually Johnson’s presence that may make the bullpen complexity more manageable. With both the Mets and Orioles, Johnson was known for bullpens with three and even four relievers who were, or would soon be, well-known names. His “A” and “B” bullpen theory, a necessity he thinks for teams at the 100-win level, just took shape — again.
Three years ago, the Nationals were coming off a 103-loss season. Now, they have one of baseball’s best rotations, best infields, best defensive outfields, best benches and, now, one of the best bullpens in the game, too.
Now, the Nationals, their owner and their fans are left with the last and the best of the all the major problems in pro sports: high and justified expectations. Learn to love the misery. It’s not going away for several years.
For previous columns by Thomas Boswell, visit washingtonpost.com/boswell.