Rafael Soriano is the new closer, and Davey Johnson's good problem to have is three right-handers who have closed big-league games successfully.
And think about this: The Nationals didn't have room in their first base/outfield mix for Michael Morse, who is a season removed from a .303/.360/.550 line with 31 homers and 95 RBI.
So coming off a 98-win regular season and devastating Game 5 NLDS loss, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo's off-season plus-minus looks like this:
Added: Soriano, Denard Span, Dan Haren and pitching prospects A.J. Cole and Blake Treinem, with free-agents Adam LaRoche and Zack Duke retained.
Subtracted: Morse, Edwin Jackson, Sean Burnett, Tom Gorzelanny, John Lannan, Mike Gonzalez and pitching prospect Alex Meyer.
And if this really is going to be Johnson's final managerial season — as stipulated in the two-year extension he signed in November — attached is the pressure to win it all.
Here's how the Nationals could be better in 2013:
Drew Storen also fits here, as he pitched only 30.1 innings in 2012. Two years ago, he saved 43 games; now he's projected to share primary setup duties with Tyler Clippard.
But when you're trying to win now, putting Soriano's proven effectiveness — if not durability — behind Storen and Clippard at the back of your bullpen is a smart move, and a risk worth taking.
Span makes the outfield better defensively, moving Harper out of center field and into what likely will be a long-term corner spot. And lineup-wise, Span's presence drops Jayson Werth to a better-suited fifth spot in a projected lineup of Span, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Werth, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Kurt Suzuki.
Remember that Werth played only 81 games in 2012 due to a wrist injury, and Zimmerman played hurt in far too many. So an increase in runs from 731 (5th in the NL) appears likely.
And losing four left-handed relievers — replaced only by Bill Bray — is troubling. Granted, Clippard's deadly changeup has made him more effective against left-handed hitters, and Storen has been equally effective against lefties and righties.
Still, look for this to be Rizzo's next move, as the bullpen currently projects to include Duke as the only left-hander, with Bray a strong possibility with a good spring.
Another way to look at the Nationals' rise to prominence is their payroll. We're not talking Dodgers-Angels- Yankees stratosphere, but the Nationals' payroll is surging.
After a three-year run (2009-2011) when the payroll stayed in the $60-70-million range, it jumped to $92.5 million in 2012, and could rise past $110 million in 2013. Here's a breakdown of the upper tier (numbers from Baseball Prospectus/Cot's Baseball Contracts site):
Werth — $16 million
Zimmerman — $14 million
Haren — $13 million
LaRoche — $10 million
Soriano — $7 million
Suzuki — $6.45 million
Gio Gonzalez — $6.25 million
Span — $4.75 million
Arbitration will play a huge part in where the final payroll number ends up, as eligibles include Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Storen, Clippard, Ross Detwiler, Craig Stammen and Bernadina. But that also means most of the team's core is under control for at least three more seasons. All of which are likely to see the Nationals as World Series contenders.
ATLANTA (AP) - Matt Harvey pitched six hitless innings, John Buck homered and the New York Mets held off another Atlanta comeback, beating the Braves 4-3 Tuesday in the first game of a doubleheader.
Taking a look at some of the greatest catchers off all time.