The Washington Nationals have won the National League East title in three of the last five seasons, but have never advanced past the National League Divisional Series in their existence. Despite general manager Mike Rizzo’s best efforts to put together one of the best rosters in baseball, the Nationals have yet to complete a truly special season since moving to the nation’s capital in 2005.
In 2012, the Nationals won 98 games and clinched the No. 1 seed in the National League playoffs. Unfortunately, Washington ran into the St. Louis Cardinals, who found a way to overcome a 6-0 deficit in Game 5 of the best-of-five series after Nationals closer Drew Storen had an epic meltdown in the top of the ninth inning.
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) November 16, 2016
After a one-year hiatus, the Nationals returned to the National League playoffs in 2014 after winning 96 games and the National League East division. This time, Washington was undone by the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants in the National League Divisional Series. The Nationals struggled to hit the Giants’ pitching, which led to an exit in four games.
Again, after missing the playoffs in 2015, the Washington Nationals won the National League East in 2016 and faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Divisional Series. After taking a 2-1 series lead, the Nationals lost the final two games of the series to once again be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
— Bleacher Report MLB (@BR_MLB) November 15, 2016
With the ownership group agreeing to increase its spending, the Nationals are desperate to have something more to show for it than first-round exits. In 2012, the Nationals had a payroll of just over $101 million, according to Spotrac.com, and the number jumped all the way to $163 million, but the results haven’t been any better.
With each passing year, the Nationals’ window to win a World Series keeps closing faster and faster. When this run started in 2012, the Nationals were one of the best young teams in baseball and had a bright future because of their youth. Now, the only projected starters remaining that are under 30 years old are Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Trea Turner. Danny Espinosa doesn’t turn 30 until April, but there’s no guarantee that he will start at shortstop in 2017.
The Nationals might be looking to add Chris Sale: https://t.co/paHp7bHiuV
— MLB Daily Dish (@mlbdailydish) November 14, 2016
As for the pitching staff, Max Scherzer just won the NL Cy Young award, but he’s 32 years old. Stephen Strasburg is 28, but he is coming off of yet another arm injury. Gio Gonzalez is 31, and he is coming off of a very disappointing season that saw his ERA end up at 4.57. Tanner Roark just turned 30 in October, but he just threw the most innings of his career in 2016, and it’s unclear how that type of workload will affect him heading into 2017.
With the window closing rapidly, general manager Mike Rizzo is looking at 2017 as the year he needs to make it happen. In order to do that, Rizzo must add some pieces this offseason in order to take the Nationals to that next level, and the first rumored piece of the puzzle could be Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale, according to FOX Sports‘ Ken Rosenthal.
— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) November 16, 2016
The White Sox seem to be ready to finally begin rebuilding, and Sale is the biggest asset on the roster. Any trade for Chris is going to involve multiple top prospects or young major leaguers, and the Nationals have the ammunition to complete a deal. The only question that remains is whether Rizzo is willing to part with his prospects in order to get another ace to pair with Scherzer and Strasburg.
Only time will tell.