Ken Rosenthal has an article up about the Nats lack of moves this off-season. For a person not following the team daily, it does seem head-scratching. It can even lead you to say things you think should be true, because that's how things typically go, but really aren't for the Nats.
"Their decision-making, though, is oddly inconsistent for a team that was nine outs away from..."
The thinking is the Nats spent a lot in 2015 because they felt urgency and pressure to win. That's why most teams start raising payroll. That's not the case here. They spent a lot in 2015 because they were convinced by Boras/Rizzo that they needed Scherzer going forward for the next ~5 years and the payroll could drop down to where they like it / need it to be by the next season. The inconsistency was the 2015 payroll. Otherwise they've been clear in where they want to be (about 150 Million, about 10th highest ). This may change after the MASN deal is settled, but for now this is where the team is.
"Urgency is warranted, and the free-agent market has been a buyer’s
market all off-season, full of opportunity. Yet the Nats barely have
Since they haven't signed anyone the Nats must not have been terribly active. However, that's not true. Much like last year the Nats have made a bunch of offers, kicked a lot of tires. But as Rosenthal notes these offers tend to have a ceiling that prevents going over what they consider fair market value*, or involve deferred money. The Nats throw out a bunch of lines, hoping to catch something, but they don't use the best bait.
"If Lerner wanted to spend more -– even with the Orioles withholding
money, at least some of which the Nats eventually will receive — he
This is true.
"And now would be the time."
This would be the case if the Nats were chasing a title. They are not. The Nats are trying to be consistently competitive and hope that titles will come their way by virtue of multiple playoff appearances. There is never "the time" for the Nats. Not how the organization is currently run.
"Over the past year, the owners occasionally have loosened the reins.
The deferrals in the Nationals’ free-agent offer to Jansen were
People often use the supposed Jansen deal as a way to note the Lerners were ready to spend more. I guess that is possible. However when looking to bring in Chris Sale, the Nats had a dump trade for Gio on the ready. It's my assertion that if the Nats were successful in bringing in Jansen, that Gio would have to go. Who would start? I don't know. Cole? Voth? But I'll stick to my guns.
"But the Nats have yet to win a postseason series in their 12-year
history, suffering first-round defeats in three of the past five years. You’d think ownership would want a different outcome."
They do! But they also aren't convinced spending will get that.
You need to stop thinking the Nats are like other teams. The Nats may have the same goal as other teams, to be champions, but they have a set plan on getting it based on quantity, not quality. It's a plan that plays out in the math. Will it play out in the field? All we can say is that it hasn't so far.
*which often turns out to be under what the market will give them.