It’s safe to presume the window may possibly be closing on the Washington Nationals to win a World Series. Bryce Harper will be a free agent after the 2018 season. Max Scherzer will be 33 in 2017. Stephen Strasburg, despite being a young age has shown signs of wear and tear. After three disappointing NLDS exits in the last five years, Washington’s time is running out and it’s time they plan accordingly.
According to Ken Rosenthal, the Nationals front office has a contingent plan in place if there are any struggles from two key veterans. Rosenthal reports the Nationals will look to add a hitter if Jayson Werth or Ryan Zimmerman struggles in 2017.
Zimmerman, 32, has shown signs of decline in recent seasons after dealing with shoulder problems that forced the Nationals to move him from third to first base last season. His batting average declined from .280 in 2014 to .249 in 2015 to .218 in 2016.
Zimmerman struggles at the plate were highlighted with runners in scoring position. He hit a dismal .179/.262/.321 with running in scoring position. His numbers were worse with bases loaded. He went incredible 0-for-12 at the plate with seven strikeouts with bases loaded, including the postseason. His clutch stats are just as troubling as he hit .116/.162/.188 in late and close situations, per Baseball-reference.com.
The Nationals re-signed utility man Stephen Drew on Thursday. While his primary role will be to back up the inside infield duo of Daniel Murphy and Trea Turner, he will serve as an insurance policy in case Zimmerman cannot debunk his recent struggles. However, Drew is a short-term fix at best. And the Nationals would be better suited to make a drastic transaction to add a bat in the lineup to protect from Zimmerman’s woes. It’s hard to bench a player set to make $46 million over the course of the next three years, but the Nationals must understand the window is closing.
For Werth, age is a concern. He will enter his final year of a seven-year deal at the age of 37, and while his decline is not on the levels of Zimmerman, the thought has to be Father Time is undefeated. Last season, Werth played well for the Nationals solidifying the No. 2 spot in the lineup ahead of Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy. In 2016, Werth hit .244/.335/.417 — a slight improvement from the previous season.
With the acquisition of Adam Eaton, its presumable he will slot in one of the two top spots in the lineup. As a result Werth more than likely will slot down behind the trio of Harper, Murphy, and Anthony Rendon to the bottom third of the order along with Zimmerman. The Nationals can ill afford struggles from the aging Werth and Zimmerman, especially with the departure of Wilson Ramos.
The Nationals have a history of falling back after a good season. They have missed the postseason the follow-up season after their first two division titles. A combination of injuries, struggles, and turmoil plagued their campaigns in 2013 and 2015. A lack of a balance lineup may be their detriment for 2017, and at least according to the report, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo will do all he can do to prevent the season from getting away from them.