"You can’t do things for short-term gains that are going to harm you long term.”The rumor mill suggests this isn't just talk. Despite losing Zimm potentially for the remainder of the season, the Nats appear to be only looking at upgrading their LH relief pitching. It makes sense to do that, Jerry Blevins' complete LOOGYness this season limits his usefulness, but it would seem like the Nats should do more. One more bat or one more big arm could likely guarantee a NL East pennant and the advantages that come with that.
It makes sense to go all in now. The iron is hot and it seems very likely to grow colder by 2016. Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, and Doug Fister all could be gone after the 2015 season. Adam Laroche, Denard Span, Rafael Soriano, and Tyler Clippard are also up for FA after 2015 and not all of them will be back*. If LaRoche does come back he'll be 36 in 2016. Werth will be here and he'll be 37. Zimmerman and Ramos are both high-injury risks. It's clear that this particular window, with these particular players playing leading roles, has another 2 years tops.
That's not to say the future is grim. You can see where the Nats' plan is going. In 2016 Rendon and Bryce will anchor the offense while Gio and Strasburg anchor the rotation. Storen re-takes his closer role and a guy like Barrett moves into a set-up role. Filling in the gaps will be Taylor or Goodwin or Souza in the OF. Cole and Giolito will take their places in the rotation. I imagine a trade will be made for a MI and maybe a SP. Who exactly I can't tell you . You're probably looking for a guy who is becoming a FA after the 2017 season at least (the Nats don't deal for 1 year players) and may not have gotten on the radar yet. (twist my arm and I'll say Starlin Casto)
But you can see that alot has to go right. Giolito and Cole (or whoever but these are the likely two) have to be as good as ZNN and Fister. Strasburg and Gio have to be as good as they are now. Along with Zimmerman and Ramos, Rendon and Bryce also have to remain healthy. Storen can't go head-case again. They have to be able to make a trade for positions other teams value highly. If the Nats want to keep position as NL East favorite a couple years from now, it'll take some good GM skill AND some good luck.
I understand the impulse to protect the future and I get that making deals for now are no guarantee of success, but here's the truth :
- If you sacrifice the future to try to win now, you'll probably lose now and your future will be a question mark.
- If you don't sacrifice the future to try to win now, you'll probably lose now and your future will be a question mark.
Rizzo wants to focus on the future because that's what the owners most likely want. A stable, winning franchise. That builds the fanbase and makes the franchise more valuable. Trading for now could darken a future that is already cloudy. Focus on winning games, not championships, because winning games is an accomplishment that's far less up to the fickle hands of fate. One bounce, one bad start, won't take you from winning 90 games to 75, but it can take you from winning a playoff series to losing one.
Is that what you want though? A series of half-measures on whatever is going on in the current year? A tweak here and there every 2 out of 3 summers when the Nats are still in it? Or do you want the big move, knowing full well the team still could, and probably will, fail at obtaining the ultimate goal?
*My early guess. I think LaRoche will resign on another 2-year deal. So Zimm plays LF / platoons with LaRoche. I think Clippard and Soriano walk for greener pastures. I think the Nats let Span go because they just don't have room. I think they manage to sign Fister but not ZNN (who let's face it, doesn't want to be here) or Desmond (who will get more money elsewhere)