It's easy to fix a bad team. That isn't meant to dismiss the job Rizzo has done, but it's the truth. If you are given the right resources ($$$ for FA and draft picks) you should be able to turn a losing team into a .500 one in just a few years. The holes are often obvious and more importantly deep. Take a look at the Astros right now. You could sign a couple FA at SS and OF, they don't even have to be particularly good ones, just league average, and you'd perk up the offense. The rotation is so bad nearly anyone you can sign would improve it. Outside of picking up a catcher, you could literally do anything and this team might get better. Down this low the cost of each win is low and the answers are easy.
Where the Nats are the answers are harder to come by. You can't get better simply by signing "anyone". You usually don't have big gaping obvious holes. Instead you have good players that need to be replaced by very good or great ones if any sort of strides are to be made. The question is, are the Nats going to do that or are they going to be content to bring in one starting pitcher (the only easy fix) and make another go at it?
Here are some of the hard questions awaiting the Nats
Adam LaRoche (101 OPS+) Adam is basically an average hitter now and his fielding slipped. He's going to turn 34 in November an age where collapsing is more likely than rebirth. Do you go with Adam at a position where you normally look for great offensive production?
Anthony Rendon (96+) After a blistering start Anthony has settled down into a punch and judy place with an unimpressive average. (Whoever it was that mocked me for saying Rendon could finish hitting .250 with a little bad luck... SUCK IT) Obviously he's a rookie so expectations are he'll improve a bit next year, but what if he doesn't? His overall value is already questionable as he's not a good fielder at 2nd where he currently plays out of position.
Denard Span (98+) Unlike Rendon, Span is meant to be a fielding first type of guy, and he's coming through where that's concerned. But we've all seen what a slumping Span offers the team at the plate, a big squadoosh. He doesn't get on base or hit for any power so if he's not singling, he's not doing anything. The Nats thought they could carry a defensive guy in the lineup back when they thought they were a Top 5ish offense. Do they think the same thing now?
Do they need another pitcher or do they need another ace? Both ZNN and Gio have pitched well this year, but not to the expectations set by last year. They were at 133 and 136 ERA+ last year, respectively which is like having two #1s, to go along with the other #1 Strasburg. They are both at 114 now, which is very good #2/#3 territory, but it's not the same "you can't beat us, THIS guy is starting" pitching as the Nats had last year. Also, you're looking at a top 3 that's been remarkably healthy recently. Strasburg & ZNN haven't missed significant time since their respective comebacks and Gio has been the same way since 2009. It's not to say it will happen. Maybe this is the one thing the Nats do right. But odds are sooner or later it won't be a Detwiler that needs half a season off. With all this being the case, is it enough to simply grab a pretty good #4 type (for example AJ Burnett - not that anyone wants him just an example) or do you try to go out and get someone special?
The Nats can just tweak the roster and go into 2014 with playoff expectations. A competent #4, plus a complete overhaul of the bench would still seemingly leave the Nats, young and healthy, as a strong WC and possible division contender. But it also is asking for several things to go right instead of wrong and offers the Nats no cushion on those expectations. Failure to go big, might just have the Nats going nowhere again.