Needless to say, general manager Mike Rizzo has some important decisions to make this offseason.
With expectations extremely high for this team and the luxury of having Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper under contract for affordable salaries, the 2014 Nationals might have a few extra bucks to spend for a free agent or two.
According to BaseballReference.com, the Nationals currently have $80.9 million in guaranteed contracts for the 2014 season. The site also predicts that the Nats will spend $21 million in arbitration costs and acquire $3.5 million worth of players to fill the rest of the roster, putting the projected salary at $105.4 million.
Even if you deduct the $3.5 million that BaseballReference.com projects in free agents, the number is still low enough to allow the Nationals to be significant players in top free-agent negotiations this offseason. The Nats might have to pay for a fifth starter, but that does not seem to be an area in which they will go bankrupt.
With a payroll that is projected to be less than 2013's, the Nationals should be able to spend some money and snag a top free agent. The lack of depth at second base might present the team with a chance to be serious contenders in the Robinson Cano sweepstakes.
Washington has shown that it is more than capable and willing to lock players up with long-term contracts, most recently with Jayson Werth's seven-year deal.
In fact, Werth is only one of four players currently slated to receive more than $10 million in 2014. Werth will make $20 million, while Zimmerman will be paid $14 million, Adam LaRoche is set to make $12 million and Rafael Soriano will make $11 million.
The payroll is slated to be low because of a few players who will make considerably less than what they would if they were free agents this offseason.
Gio Gonzalez—who is signed through 2016, with a team option in 2017 and a vesting option in 2018—is set to make $8.5 million this season. Meanwhile, Bryce Harper will bring in $2.15 million. In comparison, the Nationals paid Dan Haren $13 million in 2013. Gonzalez is a steal for the price that they are currently paying and will leave a lot of room for the Nationals to make some moves.
The Nationals are certainly in a great position financially this offseason. Rizzo should try to make some moves to get this team back to the playoffs, especially before it's burdened with the reality of paying Harper and Strasburg in the years to come.
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