Just a few months removed from Strasburg mania and Nats' brief flirtation with trading for Oswalt, it's hard to contemplate the worst-case (for 2011) scenario. But with Kasten out the door at year's end, potentially because the Lerners won't commit to the same future , there has to be a serious questions raised about the new direction the Nats could conceivably take.
What if the Nats don't sign Dunn? It's feeling more and more likely that Adam is out the door, and while that would be a shame it wouldn't necessarily kill the team. The hope is the money not spent on Dunn would go elsewhere, possibly toward a run at Carl Crawford. (Forget for the moment that about a quarter of the league might be gunning for the guy, and the Nats are far from the most appealing candidate). But what if they don't even try to sign Crawford? What if they don't try to sign anyone interesting?
It's not like it couldn't happen. The Nats have a lot of young players ready to be tested and veterans still under contract. Ramos/Pudge/Flores, Espinosa, Desmond, Zimmerman of course, Willingham, Morgan (all indications are that he'll at least go into next year as the favorite to start in center), Livan, Marquis, Lannan, Zimermann, Detwiler, Burnett/Clippard/Storen/Peralta etc. While the overall talent here might be lacking, the end result is that there are not a lot of holes in the Nats lineup. A quick look would tell a fan that First Base, LF or RF, and a trusted starter are needed. They should also get a decent MI backup. Other than that, while there are definitely places that could improve, there are none that NEED a new player.
Can the Nats get away with not filling these holes though? How would they justify it? Well not getting a good back-up infielder is easy enough to justify. It's a back-up infielder. Yes, injuries can happen and relying on a rookie and a 2nd year player who hasn't quite solidified his role is risky, but your average back-up MI is garbage anyway. Who's going to protest if they go with Alberto Gonzalez?
As for starting pitcher, you can see the Nats argument for not spending money there as well. Livan, Marquis, and Lannan should eat innings next year. They want Zimmermann and Detwiler to get shots. Maya needs a longer look. Strasburg needs a place to slip in. You could argue that another FA pitcher would only muddy the situation. Of course a stud pitcher would and should be grabbed, but here really IS no need to put another "ok" pitcher in with this group.
Outfield? I hate to say this, but Nats fans might have caught a break with the collapse of Bernadina over the past month. Before that it was pretty clear they were leaning toward an outfield with Bernadina. That could still be the case but justifying that is much tougher now. This is especially true if they want to go with Morgan again. The OF must generate offense and you can't count on a Nyjer/Roger combination to do that. They could turn to Mike Morse in the third outfield slot, but I don't get the feeling that the Nats management is behind that idea. The Nats could go into 2010 with no new OFs (or with a Mench like signing) but this one would be tough to swallow.
First base is the kicker. The Nats could go with Morse, but if they are questioning him in the outfield its likely they don't see him as an everyday player. They could go internally, but Marrero is far from a lock to hold down the spot. You can hope for it, but there is no way you can responsibly expect it. Given the offensive importance of first base a no-signing here would be an immediate white flag on the 2010 season.
The Nats could do nothing. It's always possible. Doing nothing though, would be a sign of a team giving up on 2011, surrendering already to another 100 loss season. First base has to be filled with something reliable and that outfield spot has the potential of being a huge hole and should be addressed. Other moves would help, but these are the ones that if they don't get done you can seriously question what is going on with the franchise.