The offseason signing have already started, with the Washington Nationals divisional foe drawing first blood. According to MLB.com, the Philadelphia Phillies signed 36-year-old Marlon Byrd to a two-year, $16 million deal in the hopes of contending in the NL East this season.
The Nationals' pursuit of making a splash in the free-agent market this offseason should begin soon after seeing their divisional rivals waste no time in making the first move.
While names such as Robinson Cano and Brian McCann have been drawing interest from a number of teams, there are other players available this offseason. The Nationals need to focus on players who will be beneficial and more realistic for their needs.
The Nationals could use a starting pitcher who is capable of being a strong part of their rotation for the next few years as well as a first baseman who can come in and relieve Adam LaRoche of his inconstancy at first base.
Let's take a look at some moves that could ultimately prove to be invaluable in this club's success for the 2014 season.
Corey Hart is a name that might be getting overlooked this offseason. Hart can play first base and the outfield and is a legitimate power threat.
Hart is coming off of an injury, however, which forced him to miss the entire 2013 season. Before last season, though, Hart had managed to hit with consistent power since 2007. He is a free agent this season, and there will certainly be some speculation about if he can remain healthy in 2014, but he might be a legitimate steal for the Nats if they make him an offer.
Hart can take over for LaRoche at first base should the Nationals find anyone who is willing to trade them for LaRoche. Hart is the model of consistency, the trait that has been LaRoche's Achilles' heel.
Michael Morse, another free agent who was plagued by injuries in 2013, might be the perfect fit to reunite with his old mates in D.C.
The Nationals ultimately chose LaRoche over Morse last season, but 2014 might be the perfect time to choose Morse over LaRoche.
Morse provided the Nationals with everything they could have asked for in his time spent in Washington, and now the Nationals will have a second chance to go after a guy who can play first base for years to come in D.C.
Considering that he is coming off of injuries, he might be snagged for a significantly reduced price. Morse began the 2013 season with six home runs in his first nine games, showing that, when healthy, he is a legitimate power threat, but one who might have simply struggled due to injuries last season.
Should Morse prove he is healthy this offseason, he needs to be contacted by the Nationals.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that Ervin Santana is looking for a five-year, $100 million deal this offseason.
The Nationals should try to put themselves in position to negotiate with Santana and try to land the 30-year-old free agent.
Santana would be a nice fit in D.C. in a rotation where he will not be forced to burden himself with the weight of franchise pitching while behind Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann.
Sure, it would come at a price of around $20 million a year but the Nationals will not have to play the game of trying to sign or trade for a pitcher for years to come.
Santana has showed glimpses of brilliance over his career, and if he is put in a rotation such as the Nationals have, he can learn and perfect his greatness.
A name that is not as big as some of the previously mentioned free agents is Mark Ellis.
Ellis was a big part of the L.A. Dodgers success this season and has been an intriguing player over his career. He is not only a model of consistency, but he could also bring a veteran leadership quality to the Nationals that can be a valuable, affordable asset at second base.
In every season Ellis has played from 2003 until 2012, he hit at least 20 doubles a season to go along with a career .265 average.
He might not be the most flashy player but he is a role player who could be perfect for this Nationals team that is trying to make a championship run.