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Roy Oswalt would help the Nationals in 2012 but probably leave after one year.
Along the way, we've all pondered the same question: When will it be time to attempt to win now, to "go for it" without fear of sacrificing the future?
For the first time since the franchise arrived in town, the answer isn't crystal clear. No previous Nationals roster has remotely been ready to contend, so it was foolish to believe one or two key additions would turn a last-place club into a potential wild-card winner. But now, it's fair to raise the question.
On the heels of a surprising 80-win season, and with loads of young talent both on the current big-league roster and on the cusp of cracking it, it's not at all absurd to concoct a scenario in which the 2012 Nationals would be justified in going for broke.
With Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann both healthy for the first time as teammates, the foundation of a strong rotation is already in place. One of the majors' best bullpens will have nearly every key member back in uniform. A lineup boasting a healthy Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche, a reinvigorated Jayson Werth, a budding star in Michael Morse, core youngsters Wilson Ramos, Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond and the expected arrival of Bryce Harper should produce a good number of runs.
What's missing? A center fielder, a No. 3 starter and a reliable bench. All of which could be had if the Nationals are willing to spend money on short-term solutions.
Team officials have been skeptical about giving Roy Oswalt a two- or three-year contract. But now that the veteran right-hander has made it known he prefers to sign a one-year deal and re-establish his worth before hitting the market again next winter, what's to stop the Nationals from trying to snatch up the right-hander and slot him in their rotation behind Strasburg and Zimmermann?
Who's to say the additions of Oswalt, a center fielder and two or three strong bench pieces wouldn't give the Nationals a realistic shot at 90 wins in 2012?
On the other hand, it's not at all foolish to believe this team needs to climb one more rung of the ladder before it's ready to challenge the big boys at the top.
Strasburg won't be all the way back in 2012, monitored closely by team officials who won't let his pitch count trickle much beyond the 100 mark every fifth night or his season innings count surpass 160 in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery.
Harper is unlikely to be on the big-league roster the entire season, and even if he is, the 19-year-old outfielder will probably endure some prolonged slumps while experiencing his first taste of the majors.
That elusive center fielder coveted by so many? Simply put, he may not be available to the Nationals this winter but could be there for the taking a year from now. Among those slated to become free agents entering 2013: Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino and possibly Curtis Granderson.
That oh-so-important No. 3 starter? Sure, the Nationals could try to get Oswalt right now, but a one-year deal makes him a free agent again and prevents him from being a key piece when they might really need him. But the 2013 free-agent class of pitchers includes Matt Cain, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels and possibly Dan Haren, Jake Peavy and James Shields.
So perhaps the wise course of action is to hold back for now, stick with the long-term vision, attempt to win a few more games in 2012 and then really go for it next winter.
What's it going to be? Is it time for the Nationals to try to win now? Or should the focus remain on the future, albeit the very-near future?