Denard Span will try to mesh seamlessly into the Nationals clubhouse.
As cohesive as they appeared to be on the field, the 2012 Nationals were equally cohesive in the clubhouse. You can argue whether good chemistry breeds winning or whether winning breeds good chemistry, but either way the Nats were a close-knit, jovial group last season en route to the franchise's first-ever division title.
The group that convenes in Viera, Fla., next week, while featuring mostly familiar faces, will nevertheless include a few prominent new players while lacking a few highly popular former players. Which leads to at least some uncertainty about the dynamic inside the clubhouse of a team that will draw tons of attention this year.
That's not to suggest that anyone expects dissension within the clubhouse. Mike Rizzo nearly always touts a player's high character upon acquiring him, and the general manager has rarely (if ever) been proven wrong in the four years he's been on the job.
But the Nationals personnel changes will be obvious this spring, perhaps most notably with the absence of left fielder Michael Morse, traded back to the Mariners last month. Morse was among the most popular players on the roster the last two seasons, the unofficial clubhouse DJ and happy-go-lucky slugger who always had a smile on his face.
Rizzo essentially wound up swapping Morse for Denard Span, the only real change to the Nationals' projected Opening Day lineup. Span arrives from Minnesota with a solid reputation himself, a well-liked member of the Twins for five seasons. It will be interesting, though, to see how long it takes for the speedy center fielder to feel at home in his new surroundings, given his lack of previous connections with current Nationals players and the fact he had never even faced Washington in his career.
Among the other notable roster changes is a tweaking of the starting rotation, with veteran Dan Haren replacing Edwin Jackson (and long-time Nationals left-hander John Lannan departing for Philadelphia after eight seasons in the organization). Haren, like Span, arrives with a solid reputation and seems to embrace the notion of serving as a mentor to his younger rotation mates.
Perhaps less noticeable -- though not less notable -- were the departures of two well-respected veterans: Mark DeRosa and Michael Gonzalez.
DeRosa may not have appeared on the field much last season while batting various injuries, but the 37-year-old utilityman held considerable influence within the clubhouse. Serving almost as an extra coach before, during and after games, DeRosa took several teammates under his wing, kept things loose with his karaoke machine and sharp wit and even helped inspire the Nationals to victory in Game 4 of the NLDS after reading a passage from Teddy Roosevelt's "The Man in the Arena" speech.
Gonzalez may not have held as much sway across the clubhouse, but he did hold a significant position within the Nationals bullpen, a seasoned lefty who helped set an example for others and was always available for advice and counseling.
And then, of course, there's the biggest change to the Nationals' relief corps, the late-winter signing of closer Rafael Soriano that bumped Drew Storen to a setup role. Everyone has said the right things since the Soriano deal was completed, but it remains to be seen how this significant tweak truly affects the Nats bullpen.