Back home safe and sound in good old Northern Virginia (man, it's freezing here) after a hectic week at the Winter Meetings. Nothing new to report (yet) on either Cliff Lee or Adam LaRoche. The only news I know of that will definitely be announced today involves the Nationals' minor-league coaching staffs. Sounds like former Nats third base coach Tony Beasley is rejoining the organization as manager at Class AA Harrisburg.
So as we wait for that announcement and perhaps some other developments on the free agency front, I thought this would be a good time to run through the Nationals' depth chart at each position, see where things stand and where things still need improvement...
Status: This is pretty much set. Pudge obviously make the club out of spring training (barring something unforeseen there). The other spot goes to either Ramos or Flores, which much depending on Flores' health (he did homer and double last night in Venezuela).
Status: Totally up in the air. Mike Rizzo made it clear this week he will address this vacancy from outside the organization. He's not comfortable making Morse the everyday first baseman. LaRoche is clearly the primary target now, with the Orioles also seriously interested in him. There aren't a whole lot of other options in free agency (Lyle Overbay? Brad Hawpe?) and most trade options (Prince Fielder? James Loney?) appear to cost too much.
Status: The Nats seem perfectly content to hand this job to Espinosa in spring training. They could still bring in a veteran guy who would serve as an emergency fallback option should Espinosa not be ready, but that doesn't sound like a priority at the moment. Gonzalez is a capable backup infielder at all three positions, but no one's considering him for starting duties.
Status: Barring a trade for a top-flight pitcher (a possibility, but a remote one, if you ask me) Desmond is back as the starting shortstop. Say what you will about his high error total, but the Nats' brass loves him. They think he'll continue to progress both offensively and defensively, and they already see him as perhaps the most vocal team leader in the clubhouse, a guy who won't be afraid to get in another player's face if needed.
Status: Uh, they've kind of got the best all-around third baseman in baseball. No need to really say any more than that.
Status: There's still plenty that could change here. Werth is obviously solidified as the starting right fielder. Morgan is the center fielder and leadoff man until Mike Rizzo and Jim Riggleman say otherwise. Willingham is the left fielder ... for now. His name continues to be bandied about as a trade possibility, and I don't think anyone would be surprised if he is dealt at some point this winter (though not until the Nats figure out what they're doing at first base). If Willingham is traded, Bernadina and Morse probably take over as a left-field platoon. The Nats still need to add another guy here, though: A reserve who can perhaps play both outfield and infield and key and can come off the bench to get a big hit.
Status: They're still looking for an anchor to take over the No. 1 spot and bump everyone else down a notch. Whether they can actually acquire that guy, I have my doubts. They're not signing Lee. I don't see them getting into a bidding war for Carl Pavano. Zack Greinke and Matt Garza cost too much in a trade. Maybe there's a second-tier trade candidate who could be had for a more affordable price. Something along the lines of the trade that brought Willingham and Scott Olsen to D.C. a couple years ago. If not, this is what they've got. There are no shortage of candidates for those last couple spots. Whether any of those candidates are likely to succeed is another matter.
Status: Rizzo would really like to add another veteran arm, a guy who has closing experience but isn't necessarily a full-time closer. The idea is to have someone who can pitch the ninth inning if Storen isn't deemed ready for that job yet. If Storen is ready, then said veteran can pitch in a setup role along with Clippard and Burnett. Slaten figures to be the second lefty, though Severino could push him this spring. Stammen is a good bet to be the long man. Balester has a new challenger in Rule 5 draftee Ramirez for hardest thrower of the group. Carr and Kimball will try to force their way into the mix. Overall, this unit is in pretty good shape.