If any Nats fans were thinking about a two-year long vacation... now would be the time. Even if everything goes as well as possible, you're still looking at 2012 as a recovery year for Strasburg so you can't even plan on that being a good year.
Nope, it's 2013 now which throws the whole slow build plan into disarray. There are really only two choices now - the splurge and the tear down. Neither are great plays.
The splurge on free agency, and I mean the going all-out, overpaying in both years and cash to make sure you get them type of splurge, would mean upping the payroll by 40 million or so. It would mean financial commitments to players until 2015 or later and worrying about the back end when that comes around. It would mean a better team next year but only IF they can pull it off and that's a big IF. It would take quite the sell for a team sitting around 100 losses for 83 straight seasons.
The tear down would be trades. It seems obvious now that they should have focused on this during the trade deadline period but that was before the locusts came and the rivers turned to blood. Now they would have to try to do this with their best trading chips ready to walk or injured. They could go the arbitration to draft pick route but you are looking at the 2011 draft meaning guys that won't be around in 2013, or 2014 for that matter. The Nats have little to offer up and that makes the tear down not really likely to succeed for 2013. How do you tell your fans, ones who've been made to wait until now to see any decent progress, ones that you've worked hard to convince that success is right around the corner, how do you tell them now "Oh we're going to try to compete in 2015"?
Things can still work out for the Nats being better next year without big moves. The injured pitching staff depth experiment could easily turn out three average starters next year ( 1 1/2 more than this year) and maybe they could find another one. The relief pitching should hold up. Desmond could make the next step and the Big 3 could become the Big 4 and that would be a huge difference, and if another bat is found - hey it's a real major league offense! But even if the team wins 75 games next year the excitement is gone. There's no electricity. It was up to Strasburg to bridge that interest gap from now until the Nationals were playoff contenders. Without him the front office doesn't just face an uphill battle, it has a 90 degree rock face to climb.