Oh Boz, Boz, Boz. Someone forgot to take his medicine.
The crux of the article is that the Nats are good, and they are good despite their "best-known faces" Strasburg, Bryce, and Zimmerman having off years so obviously that must mean they are going to be good forever right? That their 3-pronged approach of smart trades, smart drafts, and smart FA signings have set the team up for years upon years of success.
Of course the first thing you'd say is Strasburg, Bryce, and Zimmerman aren't their best known faces. That would be Strasburg, Bryce, and Werth. But Werth has had a good year so that doesn't fit the narrative. You could also say "young stars" and go with Strasburg, Bryce, and Rendon, but again - good year - doesn't fit narrative. So I guess you just say whatever?
But let's get down to brass tacks here - are the Nats set up for future success, like long-term future success? The easiest (and arguably best and obvious and why didn't Boz do it like this) way of looking at it is seeing who is doing well and looking at their ages and contract situations. Where do these players stand in terms of helping the Nats in 2016/2017? Here are the players who have given the Nats at least a half-win of WAR this year, which is basically saying "not a bit player". I've ordered on roughly this year's importance but don't take this as definitive.
Rendon : 24; FA after 2020. Rendon is the best thing the Nats have going in regards to future success. Good, young, cheap and in team control forever. He could get better. He can play important, harder to fill positions. Big win right here
Fister : 30; FA after 2015. Fister is great. Fister is also unsigned after 2015, and has made it somewhat clear like ZNN there isn't a discount coming. Could be helpful in those years, if signed, but can't be counted on to do that.
Roark : 27; FA after 2020. Roark has been great. He doesn't have the history of the other guys you like but it's hard to argue with results and another year like this one will force everyone to say "ok this is who he is". Given the team control of Roark that would be another big win. Of course that caveat still hangs out there.
Span : 30: FA after 2015 if the Nats decide to pick-up his option. Span is a 30 year old having maybe the best year of his career. You can like him but the chances he's on the team and helping them 3 years down the road have to be considered slim.
LaRoche : 34; FA after 2015 again option based. See Span. change 30 to 34 and "best year of career" to "surprisngly good year".
Werth : 35; FA after 2017. The increased fragility and declining production peg Werth as a iffy contributer for 2016 and beyond. That he's bounced back to give the Nats what he has after the horriffic 2011 has to be a big win but leaning on Werth at 37 would be a mistake.
ZNN : 28; FA after 2015. ZNN has been a rock for the Nats the past few years. He's also almost certainly gone after next season. Age makes him a little more likely than Fister to be helpful in 2016+ but he's also probably not as good. But again, almost certainly gone.
Desmond : 28; FA after 2015. Desmond has anchored the infield as a power hitting, good fielding SS. That's a tough find. That's why it'll cost an arm and a leg to keep him. Peripherals (high K's, low BB's) make his long-term impact uncertain but for the 2016-2017 time frame I'm looking at he should be better than your average SS. Unfortunately, no promises he'll be here.
Stras : 25; FA after 2016. You could argue at this point that Strasburg is the player you could count on 2nd most (behind Rendon) to (1) be here in 2016 and (2) be contributing at a higher level. Think about that. Not sure of his long-term commitment to DC over his home on the west coast.
Ramos : 26; FA after 2016. A key figure for the long-term Nats as age, position and talent all combine to be a big-time part of the 2016 team if not further. But can he stay healthy? As a catcher and getting older? Hard to bet on that.
Zimm : 29; FA after 2019. See Ramos but remove position. Should still be an impt piece a few years from now but has same injury issues.
Bryce : 21; FA after 2018. Definitely should be a big part of 2016-2017. Should be starting peaking in fact. Whatever that means though, superstar or very good offensive force, remains to be seen.
Clipp : 29; FA after 2015. Hard to see the Nats spending the money on Clip he'll get on the FA market but maybe he'll stay here for a bit of a discount. He certainly has blossomed here.
Storen : 26; FA after 2016. Will very well be closer for 2016 team. After that who knows. Wouldn't be surprised to see the Nats make a good budget play for him long-term after this season.
Soriano : 34; FA after 2014. Gone right? Can get more than the Nats would likely give him. Do the Nats even want him?
Gio : 28; FA after 2016 if the Nats so want. After 2018 definitely. Tough to rely on Gio as more than a back-end starter in a few years. I mean he SHOULD be better than that but I'm talking something you consider a safe bet. I don't consider Gio a Top 3 starter on this team's rotation in 2016-2017 that.
Ok so let's wrap this up. What do we have here?
Likely gone before the 2016 season : Fister, ZNN, Desmond, Clippard, Soriano, Span, LaRoche. They don't all have to be gone but age, cost, and talent suggest most will be, if not all. You could stretch and see two staying here. I'm thinking one (Desmond or Fister) at best.
Likely here but of questionable contribution : Roark, Werth, Ramos, Zimm, Gio. A combination of injury, age, and general question marks lead to unreliability. The odds for any single one of these to be a replacement level contributer in 2016 isn't that low. (Roark is the biggest stretch here so if you want to shift him to the next category feel free)
Likely here and contributing : Rendon, Storen, Strasburg, Bryce. Why does it matter that those guys are not performing to their capabilities? Here's why.
So that's 2016 - just two years from now. After 2016 Storen, Ramos, and Stras could all walk, which would leave 2017 a mess.
What about the minor leauges? I'll say this - it's very likely the Nats could develop a rotation ready starter and a major league outfielder by 2016. How good can they be? Potentially very good, with the starter (likely Giolito, but maybe Cole) looking like a better bet to be impactful. As for anything more, I'm sure they'll find a decent bullpen arm. Those aren't hard to get if you have any competence as a GM. Other than that there is nothing I would bet on. So if you don't lose both ZNN & Fister and if Stras/Gio/Roark are all ok and if the Nats young guy hits roughly his potential the rotation should still be top notch. If. The OF should be able to handle the eventual loss of Span. But the pen? 1B? SS? There's nothing certain here.
I'm not saying the Nats future is grim. To look two years down the road and say you've got Rendon, Stras, Bryce, and Storen as a core is a future most teams would like to have. The Nats shouldn't be a bad team. But the perennial contender Boz makes them out to be? I can't be as sure. The rest of the Nats team is on the way out either because of age or contract. The Mets and Marlins are improving and the Braves are always decent (Wood, Minor, Teheran, Beachy and Hale would all still be under contract in 2016 and at oldest 30) With some injury luck and a slow aging star the Nats could stay in it up through 2016 and 2017 isn't a "doom and gloom" year as much as a big fat question mark. But a new machine that has no real down cycle? That's a stretch considering they haven't passed their first run at that.
This is why I like the Nats to play for now. At the end of 2012 you could take a 3 more years of contending as a given. Gio, ZNN, Stras, Zimm, Bryce, Danny, Ian, Detwiler, Clippard, Storen; all good, all 27 or younger, all except for Zimm sure to be here for a while. If Werth could hang on and if Ramos could stay healthy the holes needing to be filled were extremely limited. Now in 2014 you don't see the same thing. There isn't as much youth. There aren't nearly as many guarantees to be around in 3 years. You are still hoping for Werth to hang on and Ramos to be healthy. This isn't the time to be looking rosily in the distance. It's time for looking hard at what's in front of you.