Washington Nationals

Complete 2013-14 Washington Nationals Offseason Preview and Predictions

Robert WoodCorrespondent IOctober 9, 2013

Complete 2013-14 Washington Nationals Offseason Preview and Predictions

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    MLB's regular season ended Sept. 29. How did the Washington Nationals fare? 

    Well, the Nationals finished in second in the NL East with an 86-76 record, 10 games behind the division-winning Atlanta Braves.

    Plus, the Nats finished four games behind the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Wild Card standings, failing to secure the second and final Wild Card berth. 

    So, unfortunately for the Washington Nationals, their offseason began Sept. 30. 

    Now, the Nats have five important questions to answer as they enter the offseason: 

    1. What is the Nationals current payroll? 
    2. Which current Nationals players are entering free agency? 
    3. What holes will the team need to fill? 
    4. Who is a potential free-agent target for the Nationals? 
    5. Are there any possible trades the Nationals may pursue? 

    To answer those five question, here is the complete 2013-14 Washington Nationals offseason preview and predictions. This slideshow will contain both third-party analysis and personal predictions in an attempt to enhance your experience. 

     

    Note: All statistics courtesy of MLB.com unless noted otherwise. 

1. Payroll Breakdown

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    USA TODAY Sports

    At the beginning of the 2013 season, the Nationals had the 12th-highest MLB payroll, according to Barry Petchesky of Deadspin.com.  

    Now, as they enter the offseason, here is a breakdown of the Nationals' payroll obligations, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts

    2013 PAYROLL$118,289,679
    COMING OFF THE BOOKS$37,255,679
    2014 PAYROLL$81,034,000

    Keep in mind that the 2014 payroll number does not account for arbitration-eligible players such as Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond. 

2. Nationals' Free Agents

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, the Nationals have only two free agents to worry about during this offseason: Dan Haren and Chad Tracy. 

    Dan Haren earned $13 million this season in the only year of a one-year contract. 

    The 33-year-old finished with a 10-14 record and a 4.67 ERA in 169.2 innings over 30 starts and 31 total appearances, converting his only save opportunity. Haren walked 31 and struck out 151, while compiling a .268 batting average against and a 1.24 WHIP. 

    Personally, I think the Nationals will let Dan Haren walk. They paid way too much for what they got out of the veteran right-hander this season, and Washington can easily find a cheaper alternative, perhaps even within the organization. 

    Chad Tracy (pictured) completed a one-year deal as well, while earning only $1 million.

    Also 33 years old, Tracy batted .202 in 129 at-bats while playing in 92 games. He hit four home runs with 11 RBI and had a slugging percentage of .326. 

    Tracy was used mostly off the bench and was 11-for-64 as a pinch hitter with two home runs, five RBI and a 1.21 pinch-hit leverage index, according to Baseball-Reference.com. This is a slight decline from 2012, when Tracy was 12-for-46 as a pinch hitter with one home run, nine RBI and a 1.23 pinch-hit leverage index. 

    If you want my opinion, I think the Nats will part ways with Tracy. His numbers did not decline that much from last season, but the team may still want a new face in that role. 

3. Holes to Fill

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Dan Haren (pictured) is not expected to return, leaving a hole in the starting rotation.

    Regarding that vacancy, Amanda Comak of The Washington Times wrote that "the team expects Ross Detwiler (herniated disc) to return healthy, giving it four set starters. Jordan, Roark and perhaps Ross Ohlendorf could all compete for that No. 5 spot." 

    Here is a comparison of the 2013 statistics for the three Nationals' pitchers who could be competing for the fifth and final spot in the starting rotation next year: 

    PITCHERWLERAGGSIPBBK
    Taylor Jordan133.669951.21129
    Tanner Roark711.5114553.21140
    Ross Ohlendorf413.2816760.11445

    Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told Comak that there are two other holes the Nationals will need to fill, saying "we’ll probably look to improve the bullpen, see if we can improve the bench a little bit."

    Regarding the bullpen, the Nationals finished 11th in the NL and 17th in MLB with a 3.56 reliever ERA. Comak added that "the Nationals’ most pressing need remains left-handed relief." 

    As for the bench, Comak wrote that "the production from the Nationals’ bench improved later in the year, right along with the rest of their offense, but they still hit just .207 in pinch-hit situations". 

4. Potential Free-Agent Targets

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    Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

    On Oct. 1, Amanda Comak of The Washington Times discussed the Nationals' need for a left-handed reliever, saying that "perhaps the Nationals will wade into the free-agent pool here again and try to secure someone like J.P. Howell, who turned the Nationals down last year in favor of a one-year deal with the Dodgers, or Oliver Perez, who has reinvented himself as a reliever the last two seasons."

    If you ask me, Washington should not waste their time with Howell. He rebuffed the Nats last year, so the Nats should return the favor this year. 

    To fill the hole caused by the impending departure of Dan Haren, the Nationals could also look beyond their own organization for a replacement. Comak wrote that "the free-agent crop is also filled with veteran starters like Bronson Arroyo and Hiroki Kuroda, or players who’ll likely command more years and dollars, like Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco and Matt Garza." 

    Here's my two cents. Arroyo would be a perfect candidate to carry the torch once held by Haren and Edwin Jackson before him. And since the Nats are looking for a fourth starter and not a second or third starter, they should pass on Santana, Nolasco and Garza. 

    Finally, there is a very intriguing international free agent that the Nationals may be able to land. 

    Jose Dariel Abreu (pictured) is a power-hitting first baseman from Cuba who represented his native country at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Ben Badler of Baseball America detailed his WBC performance, writing that "Abreu went 9-for-25 with three home runs, one double, no walks and five strikeouts to compile a .360/.385/.760 line in six games." Badler predicts that "with the Nationals likely to be in playoff contention next year, Abreu could be a fit." 

    Now, I don't think the Nationals will make this big of a splash during the 2013-14 offseason. However, Abreu would be a tempting offensive upgrade at first base. 

5. Trade Possibilities

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Danny Espinosa had a rough year. In fact, Brandon Benson of MLBNation.com labeled Espinosa as one of the biggest busts of the 2013 season. 

    Even before Benson wrote that assessment, the Nationals were looking to deal Espinosa. On Aug. 27Bill Ladson of MLB.com wrote that a source familiar with Espinosa believed that the Nationals were trying to trade Espinosa. 

    Nothing has changed since then to take Espinosa off the trading block, and the Nats may be able to kill two birds with one stone by trading their former starting second baseman.

    If I got to play Mike Rizzo for a day, I would trade Espinosa to the Miami Marlins for Greg Dobbs (pictured) and a fourth- or fifth-round draft pick. Espinosa would be an upgrade at second base for the Marlins, and the 35-year-old Dobbs would be a worthy replacement for Chad Tracy as the Nats' primary pinch hitter.

    In 2013, the left-handed hitting Dobbs 

    was 10-for-48 as a pinch hitter with zero home runs, seven RBI and a 1.70 pinch-hit leverage index, according to Baseball-Reference.com. Plus, Dobbs is primarily a corner infielder, just like Tracy. Finally, Dobbs is under contract through 2014, making only $1.7 million according to Cot's Baseball Contract

    I should be a general manager. 

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