Acquired: Jayson Werth, Todd Coffey, Adam LaRoche, Rick Ankiel
Lost: Adam Dunn, Adam Kennedy, Justin Maxwell, Josh Willingham
The Nationals, just like the Marlins, have their defined star. Manning the hot corner is Ryan Zimmerman, who has been a stalwart for Washington over the last five years. Despite the injured Stephen Strasburg, the youthful Bryce Harper, and the expensive Jayson Werth, Zimmerman is clearly the most important player to this franchise. If Zimmerman succeeds, then the team can at least look like they're doing something positive. If he falters, however, like in 2008 where he only played 106 games and the Nationals finished 59-102, the team can look downright awful. Luckily, Zimmerman typically avoids injury and can help the Nationals start working their way towards NL East relevance along with Strasburg (in 2012), Harper (in...eventually) and Werth.
Washington's defense tied with Pittsburgh for the most errors in the major leagues last year with 127. 73 of those came from their primary starting infield (Zimmerman, Desmond, Adam Kennedy, Adam Dunn). Incumbent second baseman Danny Espinosa had no errors in 25 games at second base and new first baseman Adam LaRoche has only had 13 errors over the past two years, but there's no guarantee that the stone glove of Desmond (34 errors in 2010, led MLB) will turn golden anytime soon. Until Desmond and, to an extent, Zimmerman, get their fielding act together, Washington will be allowing a lot of unwanted baserunners and unearned runs.
The 7-year, $126 million contract that GM Mike Rizzo handed out to Jayson Werth to pry him from Philadelphia during the offseason was widely criticized. People said that Rizzo essentially outbid himself and could have had the outfielder for possibly $20 million less. For that contract to look good in any way, shape or form, Werth is going to need to have a stellar 2011 campaign. If he struggles at all, the contract will look like a massive failure for the Nationals. The first 100 RBI season of his career would be a great launching point for Werth's time with the Nationals.
With Stephen Strasburg out for the year and Bryce Harper not expected to make his major league debut until 2012, the Nationals are at least one year away from contention, if not two or more. Make no mistake, however, Mike Rizzo has a plan for the future. However, the future is not the present, and the Nationals will have another tough year in 2011.