The Washington Nationals are running out of time to make noise in 2012, but fans should not be discouraged. This team is going to be making noise for years to come, despite the bump in the road this season.
The Nationals have a team that is certainly capable of challenging for the NL pennant every season, but they simply could not get things together in time this season. That does not mean that next year, or the year after that, will play out as it has this season.
Adversely, things are actually looking up for the Nationals going into next season, especially if they can land the biggest free agent on the market, Robinson Cano.
The Nationals have the opportunity to put their team above and beyond any other team if they go out and make one big move this offseason. The biggest move they can make is signing Robinson Cano.
If the Nationals decide to make a serious run at Cano and actually land the All-Star second baseman, they could have a team that is capable of running away with the National League.
The Nationals started the season in a funk, and they were never able to dig themselves out of that hole.
It is great to see how they have ended this season, however, with a 16-11 record in August and a 7-2 record so far in September.
Their success late in the season gives the Nationals plenty of hope that the future is very bright for this squad, considering many of the players who are contributing now are the same players who will be in years to come.
The key pieces to this Nationals club will be in D.C. for a while to come.
Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez will not be free agents until 2017, and Jordan Zimmermann will not be a free agent until 2016.
As for the offensive nucleus of the club, Jayson Werth, who has looked like the offensive leader of this club this season, is signed through 2017.
Bryce Harper is arbitration eligible in 2016 but will not be a free agent until 2019, while Ryan Zimmerman will not be a free agent until 2020.
The main pieces of this team will be together for a long time to come, and they will be able to learn from the disappointing season that was 2012.
The Nationals have a fantastic amount of talent in the minor leagues in their young players. Some of these players are getting their first taste of the majors this September, while others will be progressing in the minors and shining in a couple of years.
The depth of the Nats' farm system is great, and they have a lot of players who can be great at the big league level when they are ready. The solid team the Nationals have now ensure they will not have to rush these players to the majors, thus allowing them to mature and play when they are ready.