Time is ticking for the Washington Nationals.
After adding another disappointing chapter to the franchise’s postseason chronicles, the biggest obstacle the Nationals will face in the offseason is how to adjust their team to win a championship with Bryce Harper during his contract year in 2018. Harper will get the most attention, but it isn’t just his status that makes 2018 an almost must-win for the Nats. Daniel Murphy, Gio Gonzalez and Ryan Madson will also be free agents after next season.
The Nationals have set up their roster to coincide with 2018 and Harper's free agency, and next year could be their last hurrah.
The Nats do have a decision to make on Jayson Werth, who is the only notable player who will be a free agent. Werth, 38, had a subpar, injury-riddled, season where he hit .210 with only 10 home runs and 29 RBIs in 70 games. Other free agents include pitcher Matt Albers (1.62 ERA, 63 appearances) and Brandon Kintzler (3.46 ERA, 27 appearances).
Harper will have good company in the outfield as Michael Taylor figures to be a an everyday player. Taylor had a breakout campaign this season, which included 19 home runs with a .271 batting average. The 23-year-old also is the first player with back-to-back 4-RBI games in postseason history. Lastly, Adam Eaton will return after playing in only 23 games due to tearing an ACL. Eaton hit .297 with an .854 OPS before the injury. From 2014-16 with the Chicago White Sox, he hit .290 with a .783 OPS. If he continues that production in a healthy 2018, the Nationals could have three .275 hitters in the outfield. Eaton is likely play center field with Taylor playing left.
The Nationals chose not to sign a big-name closer last offseason, which lead to issues in the and the bullpen all year. Will they stay stagnant on that front again? If the answer is yes, there are three proven closers on the market.
But ultimately, can the Nats win a postseason series? They still have not won one since moving to Washington D.C. in 2005 and have just one series win in franchise history overall, the 1981 NLDS.