It’s been a whirlwind offseason with a lot of players putting on new uniforms in the upcoming weeks for Spring Training. Many fans and experts are buzzing about the Mariners and Red Sox for their offseason signings. People are talking about the Mets picking up Jason Bay and St Louis able to keep Matt Holliday. And all the while, under the radar has been the Washington Nationals. They may be low on the list of good grades for offseason moves but for their credit they made the right moves for their team.
Assumingly a big market team who hasn’t quite caught up to their market, they didn’t have the money to make a big signing or the farm system to trade for an established player. They went out to fill the holes. Holes that seemed to go on forever. Washington has seen its share of bad years. This may be the year they finally start making the climb out of the NL East.
Once a team without a city and at one point seriously thinking about the idea of playing home games in Puerto Rico, the Nats finally found a home in Washington, DC. They found a home in a stadium where the rows of seats would bounce up and down for the United and Redskins. Those seats rarely moved when the Nationals took the field. They needed a newer home, a starting over. The team got their stadium. Ryan Zimmerman, face of the franchise, made sure opening night would be unforgettable. His walk off homerun against the Braves marked the first opening day win since they moved the team to DC from Montreal.
It seems now; the Nationals are finally coming into their own. It has been a very sneaky successful offseason for this team and first, full, year GM Mike Rizzo. First he added a legitimate starting pitcher Jason Marquis to a rotation that saw 11 different guys make starts last season. He will probably be considered this team’s ace, if you can call him that. His durability will be a big question mark this season. Knowing he had a core group of young pitchers with John Lannan, Jordan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiller, Garret Mock and Shairon Martis, Rizzo brought in future Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez. And with the recent signing of Chien-Ming Wang it’s a crapshoot for the starting rotation.
Add in a real second baseman in Adam Kennedy and Matt Capps, a closer with actual closing experience and it shows you that Rizzo is committed to making this team better with the money given to him to work with.
So going into Spring Training what can the fans expect; hope. It will be a better season than last year. I am not saying the seasons of 100 losses are behind them, but I think at least for this year they are. It is going to be hard competing with the Phillies and Braves in the NL East with their current line up. Team ERA should be down this year, but with runs scored being near the basement of the league is going to make for some frustrated fans. But give it time. In the waiting is Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen, the 1st and 10th pick of last April’s amateur draft, respectively. So I say the stock is rising on the Washington Nationals. Slowly, but it is rising.