But one week is a significant part of an offseason that includes about 14 of them. Moves can still be made, and changes could still come. As the beginning hurtles nearer, here are a few things to think about as the offseason nears its end.
1. Will the Nationals make moves?
The Nationals spent $4.9 million on free agents this offseason (or roughly two percent of Max Scherzer’s deal two winters go), and none of that money went to new blood. Chris Heisey and Stephen Drew, both are crucial cogs in the clubhouse and on the bench, return. But as much as the Nationals would have felt the absence of either, neither Drew nor Heisey is an everyday game-changer. The Nationals, in other words, did not buy impact players.
Perhaps they traded for some game-changing starters in catcher Derek Norris and center fielder Adam Eaton. Wilson Ramos and Mark Melancon left, and Danny Espinosa was sent elsewhere. The roster is different, but not clearly stronger, and they did not add any big league free agents to the bullpen.
But this is the time of year when teams find value, and the Nationals hunt it. The Lerner family does not spend freely, but as spring training approaches, the game of free agent musical chairs leaves a few wide-eyed veterans without a seat. For example, the Nationals checked in on Brandon Moss, who would have provided power and depth at first base and the outfield corners. He ended up taking a two-year deal from the Royals. Still, he is not the only high-power, lower-mobility type left on the market — and not the only one who could be had at a lower-than-anticipated price.
The relief market is thinner, but not empty, and the Nationals could always deal for talent at the last minute. Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo has made more trades this winter than free agent signings, and has plenty of time to make another, should he decide the bullpen needs it.
2. Who will be invited to big league spring training?
The Nationals have not yet released their list of spring training invitees, but with Trea Turner now well-established and Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez gone elsewhere, elite prospects might not be as much of a presence at this year’s camp than last. Victor
Robles, the teenage outfielder rocketing up prospect rankings, reached High A ball last year, and would seem a step or two from big league camp — though the Nationals do pull players up to learn from the veterans. Erick Fedde is now the closest big-league, big-time pitching prospect in the system, but he only reached Class AA last year. Giolito had reached Class AA before the Nationals invited him to major league spring training last year.
Speedy outfielder Rafael Bautista, who is now on the 40-man roster, is another candidate. Outfielder Andrew Stevenson, whose stock rose after an impressive Arizona Fall League season, could also be on the cusp. While the Nationals have announced several non-roster invitees from outside the organization, the list of invitees from within could indicate which players the organization believes are making strides.
3. How healthy will this team be in spring training?
The Nationals enter this spring with a few injuries to watch, but as players arrive in West Palm Beach and settle in, the extent of those injuries will become more clear.
Max Scherzer’s ring finger, for example, is not supposed to cause lingering trouble. The Cy Young Award winner withdrew from the World Baseball Classic because of a stress fracture in his right ring finger, but because he pitched through it last year, it should not be a problem.
Stephen Strasburg’s right arm could be more concerning. Though Strasburg said he worked through a normal offseason after tearing the pronator tendon in his right arm late last season, pitching coach Mike Maddux indicated the righty could benefit from a less strenuous routine between starts, and could therefore make some alterations to his work this season. The extent of those alterations will likely indicate the extent of concern lingering for Strasburg and the organization.
Young Koda Glover tried to pitch through a torn labrum in his hip late last season, and chose not to have surgery to repair it. Instead, he rehabbed the injury, and said he expects to be at full strength by the start of the season. If he is, and he pitches like he did for most of the 2016 season at various levels, Glover could have a huge impact on the bullpen. If the hip injury forces subconscious alterations in his mechanics or a reduction of his spring work, Glover might not be as much of a lock for a bullpen spot as he seemed at times late last season.
Another young righty, Joe Ross, battled right shoulder inflammation for much of the second half before returning in time for the postseason. The Nationals could decide to alter his spring training workload to preserve his health.
Then, of course, there is the Daniel Murphy’s troublesome gluteal muscle. Murphy, who is nearly irreplaceable in the middle of the order, admitted that the glute strain that ailed him late last season could return if not treated properly. Murphy is a creature of hitting habit, and said he hit a bit less early this offseason in order to commit more time to strengthening his legs and preserving his health. Knowing Murphy, that probably meant he hit for four hours a day instead of six, and he is committed to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. But his health, and how he manages it, will likely have significant influence on the Nationals’ lineup this season.