Whenever a team loses 103 games and has been outscored by a total of 348 runs over the last two years, it's going to take more than one offseason for their new GM to bring the franchise back to respectability. The Nationals made a great first step by drafting, and paying, superprospect Stephen Strasburg, who made his professional debut earlier this week.
In his latest column for The Washington Post, Chico Harlan outlines some of the items the Nats must address this offseason, with a little help from GM Mike Rizzo.
- Rizzo detailed some of the first steps his team will take this winter, which includes adding an assistant GM and a farm director to his front office. "That's the first order of business," Rizzo said.
- The team must also decide on a permanent manager. Interm mamanger Jim Riggleman is a candidate for the position, but Harlan says he won't be the only one. Rizzo would prefer a manager with experience, but "acknowledged that getting permission to interview outside candidates whose teams are in the playoffs could slow the process."
- Of the 30 pitchers the Nats used in 2009, only John Lannan remained with the team wire-to-wire. Regardless, they have some building blocks on the staff, with a surplus of back-end starters and a few reliable bullpen arms. The most notable of those bullpen arms would be 24-year old Tyler Clippard, who led all big league relievers with 60 strikeouts after the All Star break.
- Rizzo has said "that the Nationals can become contenders without detonating their roster." Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, and Lannan represent a decent core, and you can add catcher Jesus Flores to that mix if he returns from shoulder surgery.
- The contracts of Dmitri Young and Austin Kearns expired after the season, freeing up $13MM from last year's $60MM or so Opening Day payroll. Kearns is still owed a $1MM buyout.
- "I think it helps that we're not locked into bad long-term contracts," Rizzo said. "Certainly it helps. It gives you the opportunity to kind of look over the landscape and do what's best in the long-term, big-view picture of what we're trying to do, not only in 2010 and beyond."