Posted on November 23, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine

Washington Nationals NLDS

Image via latimes.com

The Houston Astros have been the winners of the MLB offseason thus far, already making several big moves, possibly with more to come. However, if you ask around baseball, there’s another team that many are predicting will end up being the talk of the offseason, and that’s the Washington Nationals. In an article published by the New York Post this week, those in the baseball world believe the Nationals are motivated to make some aggressive and pro-active moves this winter that will position them to finally compete for a World Series championship in 2017.

The biggest storyline of the offseason may end up being Chicago White Sox starter Chris Sale being put on the trading block. The Nationals are one of several teams in the mix to acquire Sale, which is not surprising after Washington GM Mike Rizzo hinted earlier in the offseason that the team is always looking for ways to acquire starting pitching. However, some in baseball believe the Nationals may actually be the favorites to trade for Sale.

“They are really interesting. They are hovering on Sale,” one American League executive told the New York Post. “They are thinking big things. It would not shock me if they ended up with Sale. I think they have let teams know that [Trea] Turner is off the table, but that they are open on a lot of different things.”

The acquisition of Sale would give the Nationals a potentially lethal rotation of Sale, Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and 15-game winner Tanner Roark. Such a rotation would make just about every team in baseball jealous, perhaps even the division rival New York Mets, who are betting on their young quintet of young starters to return to full health in 2017 so they can take back the NL East from the Nationals.

Speaking of the Mets, another possible move on the table for the Nationals this winter is signing Yoenis Cespedes away from New York, despite the mutual interest between Cespedes and the Mets. It’s no secret within baseball that the Nationals are looking to acquire a right-handed power bat, and Cespedes would obviously fit that description.

The Nationals had no problem convincing Daniel Murphy to move from New York to Washington last offseason, and they would love to do the same to Cespedes this year. The Nationals made Cespedes a long-term offer last offseason, and they appear willing to take another shot at signing him this winter, a move that could give them arguably the best offensive player on the market.

Rizzo and the Nationals know that their window to compete for a world title is quickly closing, a fact that could act as motivation to make some bold moves this winter. While Washington is set up to have a top-notch rotation for many years to come, with or without Sale, both Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy have two more seasons before they hit free agency. Meanwhile, both Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth are on the decline, perhaps giving the Nationals only one or two more seasons with its current core of players before their roster begins to turn over.

The Nationals also see the other teams in the National League and know the bar is high. The Cubs in particular appear to be a force to be reckoned with in years to come, as could the Mets if their young pitchers can remain healthy. The Dodgers and Giants are also potential roadblocks considering San Francisco’s recent string of success and the willingness of Los Angeles to spend whatever it takes to compete. Washington’s failure to reach the NLCS despite division titles in three of the last five years acts as extra motivation.

Taking all this into account, the Nationals know that they may need to make some bold moves in order to reach the top of the National League. Washington also sees its window quickly closing, adding to the belief that the Nationals will end up being one of the most aggressive teams when it comes to making moves this offseason. As one American League executive put it: “Rizzo is pretty bold. He is going to do whatever he needs to do.”

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