As we digest the aftermath of the R.A. Dickey trade, it is clear that the New York Mets are looking to build their 2013 squad with youth. A natural question to keep an eye on for the Mets is to see what their division rivals are doing in the offseason. For each of the next four weeks, the Mets 101 staff will break down a division rival's offseason plans and see what moves they are (or aren't) making to get ready for 2013. We will begin our series with a look at last year's division champs, the Washington Nationals.
Sizing up the Competition: Washington Nationals
Free Agents Entering the Offseason: 1B Adam LaRoche, SS Alex Gonzalez, IF Mark DeRosa, C Jesus Flores, OF Rick Ankiel, SP Edwin Jackson, RP Sean Burnett, RP Brad Lidge, RP Mike Gonzalez, SP John Lannan, RP Tom Gorzelanny, SP Chien-Ming Wang
Areas of Concern: 1B, SP, OF
What They've Done: The Washington Nationals entered the offseason coming off a disappointing playoff loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. The Nats looked to improve on the 97 win squad by addressing some of their holes via free agency. The Nats initially engaged the Mets in trade talks for R.A. Dickey, but quickly backed away and signed starter Dan Haren to a one year, 13 million dollar deal. Haren, a two time All Star, was coming off a disappointing year with the Los Angeles Angels but should thrive upon returning to the pitcher friendly National League. Haren will fill the place of Edwin Jackson, who the Nats chose to let go after his one year contract concluded. The Nationals' other move of note was to acquire outfielder Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins. Span will play center and bat leadoff for Washington, allowing the Nats to move Bryce Harper to an outfield corner.
What's Left to Settle: The Nationals need to figure out what they want to do at first base. Adam LaRoche, a Gold Glover at first, is a free agent who the Nationals have been lukewarm about re-signing. LaRoche is seeking a three year deal on the free agent market, and if the Nats choose to let him go their options on the market are limited. Acquiring Span and moving Harper to an outfield corner would allow Washington to move Michael Morse to first base if they so choose.
Are They Better or Worse: Better, for a number of reasons. Acquiring Span solves both the lead off spot and center field, two problems for Washington last year. Dan Haren will be, at worst, a lateral move to replace Edwin Jackson, so their rotation should maintain its strength. The Nats will also get full seasons out of both Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, which should lead to a few extra wins. Strasburg in particular will deliver a huge impact as many baseball people felt the team's decision to shut him down last year cost the Nationals a chance at the World Series.
Projected Opening Day Lineup: CF Denard Span, RF Jayson Werth, LF Bryce Harper, 3B Ryan Zimmerman, 1B Michael Morse, SS Ian Desmond, 2B Danny Espinosa, C Wilson Ramos, SP Stephen Strasburg
Starting Rotation: RHP Stephen Strasburg, LHP Gio Gonzalez, RHP Jordan Zimmermann, RHP Dan Haren, LHP Ross Detwiler
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