Nats' core feels a sense of urgency heading into 2015

Stammen, Zimmerman talk about club's impending free agents at NatsFest

Nats' core feels a sense of urgency heading into 2015

WASHINGTON -- Friday's trade of pitcher Ross Detwiler to the Rangers could be a small sneak preview of things to come for Nationals players, who have a large contingent of teammates nearing free agency.

Detwiler was one of those, and the former first-round Draft pick now has a new address after growing up in the organization alongside many of the players who have helped lead the team's recent run of success. But if this particular group is going to reach its ultimate goal, a World Series title, 2015 could represent its final chance.

"[Detwiler] and I played together so much in the Minor Leagues and then got called up to the big leagues days apart from each other," right-hander Craig Stammen said at Saturday's NatsFest. "So it's just a little reminder, right there, that you're not always going to have the same teammates forever. Makes you realize we've got to get this going. If we want to do it with this group, we've got to get it done as quick as possible. Hopefully, we'll get it done next year."

Most of last season's National League East-winning club remains, with the exception of Detwiler, first baseman Adam LaRoche and closer Rafael Soriano. Yet, longtime cornerstones such as shortstop Ian Desmond, starter Jordan Zimmermann and setup man Tyler Clippard are due to reach free agency next offseason, along with center fielder Denard Span and starter Doug Fister.

Most of their names have come up in trade rumors. Stammen admitted he has paid more attention to the Hot Stove than in years past, since so many of his friends are involved. That includes Clippard, with Stammen joking that he is trying to convince him to stick around so they can continue their golf outings.

"You hope everybody stays for 20 years, but that's not realistic in today's baseball world -- with free agency and all that kind of stuff," said Stammen, who has two years of club control remaining. "The organization has to do [its] job. [It has] to run [its] business, [it has] to choose which players are going to be the best players, who's cost effective and whatnot.

"Every player's got his own situation of what he wants to do financially, if he wants to take a deal for the team or he wants to move on and get as much money as he can -- or go home and play for his hometown team. Everybody's got their own agenda."

Ryan Zimmerman is the one Nats veteran already locked up to a long-term deal, which runs through at least 2019. But he understands why much of the cast around him could change during the coming years -- even if he's not thinking of it as a foregone conclusion.

"If it was my decision and I didn't have to pay or write the checks, I would keep them all and give them the contracts they want and keep them all together. But that's tough," Zimmerman said. "[General manager Mike Rizzo] and the guys in the front office do a good job of putting together a good Minor League system, as well, and we have kids that are going to be ready to come up and perform at this level.

"Unfortunately, that means that guys that have been around for a while and are proven, very good Major League Baseball players aren't going to be on the team at some point. I don't know who that is or when, but I'd say, yeah, the reality is there's no way you can keep everyone."

It's a core that has brought the franchise from its often rough first years in Washington to a string of three straight winning seasons, including two division titles. The one thing that has eluded its grasp is postseason success -- with frustrating NL Division Series defeats in 2012 and '14 likely setting up at least a few key Nats for one more run at bringing a championship to the nation's capital.

So while Zimmerman didn't want to say the club would play with any more of a sense of urgency in 2015, he acknowledged that a window could be closing for some of his teammates.

"It's a great group," Zimmerman said. "More importantly, it's a very talented group that has a chance to do something special every year."

Andrew Simon is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.