It is no secret the Washington Nationals expect to rebound after a disappointing 2013 to make a push for a World Series title in 2014.
The question is, what can they do to improve upon their team from last season to make the necessary adjustments in order to get there?
Fortunately for the Nationals, they have a solid core, and there are not a significant number of moves that need to be made. However, there are a few key ones that can spur the team to their ultimate goal.
We watched the Nationals struggle out of the gate this season and end the year on a tear that gave the city some hope near the end of the season. This would suggest the Nationals need a bit more consistency, and the most obvious spots in which they can improve upon consistency is at first base, starting pitcher and second base.
Billy Butler is in his final year with the Kansas City Royals on a team that seems to be in disarray every year. It seems as though they are projected to have great talent but always fall short. The Nationals have Adam LaRoche in his final year as well, and a deal centered around the two veteran first basemen in their final years seems to be one that can warrant some thought.
The deal would give the Nationals a steady, productive bat capable of playing first base and could potentially be done if the Nats threw in another role player from the Nats.
Butler is a career .298 hitter with a .458 slugging percentage with career splits that are comparable to pre- and post-All-Star breaks throughout his career.
For those not familiar with Butler, the video provided includes his highlights from 2012 in a year he smacked 29 home runs, 32 doubles, 107 RBI and had a career-high 3.2 WAR.
The Nationals have a dilemma at second base this season as to whether they should have Anthony Rendon assume the position and leave Ryan Zimmerman at third base, or move Rendon to his natural third base position and shift Zimmerman to first.
There are other options as well, but the No. 1 thing the Nationals should do is try to deal Danny Espinosa, whom they seem to have given up on at second base.
Espinosa, who spent the majority of the season in the minors, has great slugging potential but is a high strikeout player, and the Nationals seem to want to shift from that.
Ben Zobrist is entering his final year in Tampa Bay, and the Rays are notorious for dealing players in the final year of their contract in order to make sure they receive something in return. Zobrist is a gritty player who has played every position except catcher and pitcher in his major league career. He has played the majority of his career at second base, however, and is certainly worth a look, especially with a team that loves to sell players before they reach free agency.
The Nationals can use another arm in their rotation, and James Shields might be a costly option down the road, being a free agent in 2015, but is an arm the Nationals might be able to trade for in 2014.
This deal is more intended to be made as the season is underway and assuming the Royals once again underperform. Shields is a player the Nats can essentially rent for the 2014 season and see if he is a fit in D.C. before making him a big deal next winter.
He is a player worth paying top dollar for, but the Nationals cannot afford a bust if he does not handle the pressure of being on a contender in a new league. 2014 will allow them to try him out and make him an offer next offseason if they are happy with what they see.