With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Nats squad each day this week. Today's topic -- What's the vision?
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals are trying to strike a delicate balance.
They have been among the most successful teams in baseball during the past five regular seasons, where they have racked up the second-most wins and won the National League East three times. That success has not translated to the postseason, however, where they have been defeated each time without ever advancing past the NL Division Series. They have a hungry and eager fanbase waiting for this team to take the next step.
And yet the Nationals have one of the best farm systems in baseball and value their prospects and future as much as the present. Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy both have two years remaining on their contracts, while Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg are still in the prime of their careers. The Nats see an extended window with the emergence of Trea Turner and Joe Ross . They still have Anthony Rendon under contract until 2020 and Victor Robles, their 20-year old top prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, is skyrocketing up the overall prospect rankings.
Thus presents the quandary for the Nationals. They are trying to "win-now" and improve a team that just won 95 games and yet do not want to mortgage too much of their future.
It's the reason why a player like Adam Eaton appealed to them so much. Eaton has been an underrated star over the past three seasons in Chicago and is expected to be a huge addition to the top of their lineup, getting on base with Turner to set up Murphy and Harper. The fact that Eaton is also under club control with a team-friendly deal until 2021 means he could help the Nationals in the future as much as he does currently.
It took the most highly-touted package of prospects general manager Mike Rizzo has ever traded during his tenure with the team, but it was a price they believed worth paying. Eaton has been the only major acquisition for the Nationals this offseason as they have only spent in free agency to re-sign two of their bats off the bench.
The Nats did not make any major overhaul this offseason and will return most of the team that was so successful in 2016. They are counting on a few bounce-back years from key players such as Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, the addition of Eaton and some improved health down the stretch to pull off their goal of a World Series championship. They would prefer not to trade away too much more of their future just to get there now.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.