MLB season preview: The Nationals are all-in after a bold offseason

The last five years for the Washington Nationals have been long on hype and short on delivery.

On paper at least, the Nats look like they have a good chance to shed the title of underachievers and become champions. Their core is still solid, with Max Scherzer, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy. Trea Turner looks like a star in the making. And Tanner Roark took a big step forward last season.

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This offseason, though, they went bold and traded their top pitching prospect, Lucas Giolito, to the White Sox to get back Adam Eaton. It’s a very win-now move, because the Nats have become a win-now team — especially with Harper’s free-agency window approaching.

The lineup is deep, the rotation is solid *and the Nats have anointed Blake Treinen their closer — answering the one big question that didn’t get solved in the offseason.*

ADDITIONS & SUBTRACTIONS
Addtions: Adam Eaton, Matt Wieters, Adam Lind
Subtractions: Mark Melancon, Wilson Ramos, Lucas Giolito

There’s no doubt about it: The Nationals are going all-in. Every move the team made this winter was aimed at bringing home a World Series trophy. The underrated Adam Eaton was brought in for Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. While both pitchers could have helped the team in the future, Eaton will make an impact immediately. The same can be said of Matt Wieters. The team didn’t even really need him, but took the plunge after he remained on the market much longer than anyone anticipated. Both players, and Adam Lind, give the team a formidable lineup that should wreak havoc on even the best opposing pitchers in a short playoff series. The loss of Melancon hurts, as the team doesn’t have an obvious replacement, but this is still an exceptionally talented club. (Chris Cwik)

Which Bryce Harper will we see in 2017? The Nats are hoping the 2015 version. (AP)
Which Bryce Harper will we see in 2017? The Nats are hoping the 2015 version. (AP)

KEY PLAYER
There’s just one player on the minds of Nationals fans everywhere, and that’s Bryce Harper. To say that Harper’s 2016 was tough would be an understatement. After winning the MVP and turning in an all-time great season in 2015, that version of Harper appeared to be in hiding. He hit .243/.373/.441 with 24 home runs, which just isn’t Harper-like. There were whispers of an injury throughout the season, which both Harper and the team vigorously denied. But with a fresh year stretching out in front of him, he can start over. And the Nationals need him. They proved they could succeed while Harper struggled, but wouldn’t it be so much easier if Harper was at his best? (Liz Roscher)

PROJECTED LINEUP & ROTATION
Lineup
1. Trea Turner, SS (.342/.370/.567, 13 HR, 40 RBI, 53 R, 33 SB)
2. Adam Eaton, CF (.284/.362/.428, 14 HR, 59 RBI, 91 R)
3. Daniel Murphy, 2B (.347/.390/.595, 25 HR, 104 RBI, 88 R)
4. Bryce Harper, RF (.243/.373/.441, 24 HR, 86 RBI, 84 R, 21 SB)
5. Anthony Rendon, 3B (.270/.348/.450, 20 HR, 85 RBI, 91 R)
6. Jayson Werth, LF (.244/.335/.417, 21 HR, 69 RBI, 84 R)
7. Matt Wieters, C (.243/.302/.409, 17 HR, 66 RBI)
8. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B (.218/.272/.370, 15 HR, 46 RBI)

Rotation
1. Stephen Strasburg (15-4, 3.60 ERA, 147.2 IP, 183 K)
2. Tanner Roark (16-10, 2.83 ERA, 210 IP, 172 K)
3. Gio Gonzalez (11-11, 4.57 ERA, 177.2 IP, 171 K)
4. Joe Ross (7-5, 3.43 ERA, 105 IP, 93 K)
5. Max Scherzer (20-7, 2.96 ERA, 228.2 IP, 284 K)

Max Scherzer leads the Nats' rotation again, which ain't a bad thing. (AP)
Max Scherzer leads the Nats' rotation again, which ain't a bad thing. (AP)

BEST-CASE SCENARIO
This is the year it finally comes together. Coming off a 95-win season in 2016 the Nationals are positioned to equal or even top that number in 2017. They’re once again clear favorites to win the NL East. But it’s what they do in October that will define them. No one is doubting they have the talent to win the World Series, but it will be up to them to finally back it up. (Mark Townsend)

WORST-CASE SCENARIO
With a team that’s built to win right now, it feels like anything short of reaching and winning the World Series would be a disappointment. That feeling is strengthened by the fact that Washington has been in this same position for the last five years, but has continuously fallen short. With a championship window that could slam shut in a couple years, it’s getting to be now or never. (Townsend)

PRESSING FANTASY QUESTION
If you had to pick a closer from the Nationals current options, who would it be?
Yikes. I’ll take Shawn Kelley, I suppose. And keep an eye on flame-throwing 23-year-old Koda Glover. But really, it’s hard to believe this team won’t deal for a battle-tested ninth inning option — possibly David Robertson, or perhaps Alex Colome.

[Elsewhere: Read more pressing fantasy questions about the Nationals]

The Nats chased the brand-name free agent closers back in December, but they missed on all targets. It’s an obvious area of need, and not particularly difficult to address via trade.

BEST FOLLOW
The Nats have a number of good follows, like Adam Eaton, Gio Gonzalez and Max Scherzer. But there’s really one guy that’s essential. And that’s Bryce Harper.

Flipping the switch! Light em up #BH34

A post shared by Bryce Harper (@bharper3407) on Mar 4, 2017 at 4:28am PST


He will show you bat flips and workout videos and teammate pictures. Bryce Harper loves baseball, and he wants you to love it, too. (Roscher)

BEST REASON TO ATTEND A GAME
If it’s your first time visiting D.C., make sure you do some sightseeing. The National Mall is just a five-minute drive from Nationals Park, so you can check out all the usual landmarks with plenty of time to make it to the game.

In recent years, the area surrounding the ballpark has changed dramatically. There are now a ton of restaurants, bars and shops within walking distance. If you want a nice pregame meal, or just want a few drinks before or after the game, you’ll have plenty of options. (Cwik)

ALSO IN THIS SERIES: San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Angels, Atlanta Braves, Minnesota Twins, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, New York Mets, Houston Astros, Washington NationalsSan Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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