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Davey Johnson's roster has only a few question marks at this stage of the offseason.
Yep, we've just about reached the homestretch of the Hot Stove League. Nationals pitchers and catchers are due to arrive in Viera on Feb. 19, one month from tomorrow, and not a moment too soon for a franchise that ended 2011 on a high note and can't wait to pick up where it left off on Sept. 28.
So this seems like a good time to step back and take a broad view of the Nationals, who to date have made only a handful of offseason moves but already appear to have most of their roster set. Perhaps this team has been less active this offseason when compared to previous ones. But never before did the Nats have this many pieces already in place.
They did enter the offseason with a handful of goals: 1) Add another front-line starter, 2) Add a center fielder, 3) Improve their bench.
How have they done at addressing each of those needs? Let's run through them all...
1. ADD ANOTHER FRONT-LINE STARTER
The path that led the Nationals to acquire Gio Gonzalez from the Athletics for four top prospects was a bit winding and featured some surprises along the way. But it's hard to argue with the end result: The Nats got a very good, young starter who should help give them a formidable rotation both in the short- and long-term.
GM Mike Rizzo went into the offseason pining after Mark Buehrle. The veteran left-hander became the club's No. 1 pitching target, and Rizzo and the Lerner family put the hard sell on him before ultimately learning he had spurned them for the suddenly free-spending Marlins.
You have to wonder whether Rizzo actually is happier the way things turned out. Sure, Buehrle would have been a nice addition to the rotation. But even had he agreed to a three-year contract -- he wound up signing with Miami for four years and $54 million -- the Nationals would still be paying him roughly $13 million per season to be their No. 3 starter.
Instead, they got Gonzalez at the relatively affordable price of $42 million over five seasons, with a couple of $12 million options for 2017 and 2018. This for a 26-year-old who should slot in nicely between Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann and give the Nationals a potent 1-2-3 pitching punch for years to come.
2. ADD ANOTHER CENTER FIELDER
How has that one worked out? Uh, not exactly as planned. The Nationals explored some options to fill a hole that has existed for quite some time, but none of them made particular sense.
With no strong free agents on the market this winter, Rizzo was forced to explore the trade route. What he found were some incredibly high asking prices from his counterparts for the likes of B.J. Upton, Peter Bourjos and others.
So the Nats moved onto Plan B, in which Jayson Werth is likely to shift from right field to center. It's not an ideal scenario, and certainly isn't a long-term answer. But Werth proved capable of playing the position during a September tryout, and his shift would open right field for Bryce Harper.
We still don't know, of course, when Harper will make his big-league debut. Despite pressure from manager Davey Johnson to include the 19-year-old on the Opening Day roster, the most likely scenario will see Harper begin the season at Class AAA Syracuse and earn his promotion sometime before midsummer.
Which means the Nationals will need to find a short-term center fielder. At the moment, the candidates are Roger Bernadina and Mike Cameron. Rick Ankiel, still available on the open market, could be re-signed.
3. IMPROVE THEIR BENCH
One of the majors' least-productive groups of reserves has received only a modest makeover this winter, though it may not yet be complete.
The most prominent addition to date is Mark DeRosa, the soon-to-be 37-year-old utilityman who signed for $800,000. Otherwise, Rizzo has signed potential bench players to minor-league deals: Cameron, Chad Tracy, Xavier Paul, Jason Michaels, Brett Carroll.
The group still is lacking a reliable left-handed hitter, one of Johnson's preferred "hairy-chested" sluggers. Ankiel could fill that role, though his specialty is defense over offense. This seems like a position that still needs to be addressed from outside the organization.