Tha Sports Junkies 101

Washington Nationals: New Year, New Team

Washington Nationals Image via SportsGraphics36


Washington Nationals

The 2016 season for the Washington Nationals ironically began towards the tail end of the 2015 season when then Nationals manager Matt Williams was dismissed along with the rest of his coaching staff. The Nationals, coming off a disappointing season, needed to make a splash of a hire at the manager position. Among the names of notable candidates who interviewed for the job included former San Diego Padres manager Bud Black, former Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire along with former Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker. The Nationals had reportedly reached an agreement with Black but contract negotiations between the two camps threatened to derail the deal. In the end, the deal fell through and Dusty Baker was introduced as the new manager for the Washington Nationals.

Upon arriving in Washington, Baker was tasked with putting together a coaching staff he believed in and trusted. Baker hired Mike Maddux as the pitching coach, Davy Lopes was named first base coach, other notable names to be added to the coaching staff included Chris Speiers and Jacque Jones. Baker set out to right the ship and improve on a less than stellar season for a team that frankly underachieved for the better part of the season, only to fall in the division standings to the NL East champion New York Mets.

Baker revamped the lineup saying goodbye to power hitting, but error prone shortstop Ian Desmond as well as outfielder Denard Span and pitcher Doug Fister. The Nationals made impressive offers to free agents such as Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist only to watch them sign with other clubs. Washington wasn’t done making offers. The Nationals agreed to a three-year contract with All-star infielder Daniel Murphy adding defensive stability and offensive firepower to an infield that drastically needed it.

The Nationals took the NL East by storm cruising to a 95-67 record winning the division by 8 games and striking a revenge blow to the Mets who had won the division the year before. The Nationals were led this season by four-time All-star Bryce Harper who appeared in 147 games hitting .243 with 24 home runs and 86 RBI. Newly acquired Daniel Murphy had a breakout season hitting .347 while totaling career highs in home runs and RBI with 25 and 104 respectively.

Pitching played a large roll in Washington’s success with arms like Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. Scherzer registered a 20-7 record with 284 strikeouts while Strasburg pitched to a 15-4 record with 183 strikeouts. Gio Gonzalez is coming off his fourth underwhelming season in which he recorded a .500 record with an ERA hovering around 4.57 while giving up a career high 19 home runs in 2016.

The Nationals playoff run came to an end in the division series when the Los Angeles Dodgers blend of timely hitting and overpowering pitching proved to be deciding factors in the series win. The Nationals loss marked the third time in five years that Washington had been eliminated from playoff contention in the divisional round.

Off-Season Moves:

Following the disappointment of last years playoff ousting, the Nationals looked to address key needs in the off-season. Washington made headlines when they announced that they had acquired All-star outfielder Adam Eaton from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for highly touted pitching prospects Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. Giolito and Lopez are both highly regarded as two of the game’s top pitching prospects. While the price for Eaton does seem to be quite expensive, it does allow them to move Trea Turner back to his original position at shortstop. It also gives Washington outfield flexibility if Jayson Werth tests free agency in 2018.

Washington also acquired catcher Derek Norris from the San Diego Padres for minor league pitcher Pedro Avila. Norris will likely assume the starting roll taking over for Wilson Ramos who elected free agency and eventually agreed to a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Expectations for 2017:

The Nationals look to improve on last years season with a push to the postseason. With a revamped lineup, the offensive pieces are in place for this team to be a full-fledged title contender. Bryce Harper is looking to redeem himself from a season in which he saw his batting average and power numbers slump slightly. The Nationals know what they have with hitters like Harper, Murphy and Werth, and if Eaton produces the way he’s produced in the past, the Nationals could have title hopes in 2017.


The Washington Nationals have given fans plenty of reasons to cheer in recent years. This season should prove to be very pivotal towards the direction of the franchise. Adding Eaton was a good move, but at what cost, with a pitching staff that struggles after their first two starters, giving up top pitching prospects could prove disastrous for a team already struggling with pitching depth. With that being said, moves could still be made from now until the start of the 2017 season. Nationals fans will be anxiously awaiting the start of the upcoming season in hopes of finally finishing what they’ve started.