How much better will the Nationals be now that right-hander Max Scherzer is on the roster?
-- Kenny I., Washington
On paper, the Nationals look unstoppable in the National League East because of their pitching staff. My biggest concern, however, is the offense. For starters, the position players strike out too much. The club needs players like Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper to cut down on the K's.
Hopefully for the Nats, the offense can be consistent all year, including the postseason. Look how the offense collapsed against the Giants in the NL Division Series last year. The key is to have healthy seasons from Harper, Wilson Ramos and Ryan Zimmerman. All three players missed significant time because of injuries last year.
I'm also concerned about the reserve players. With the exception of Kevin Frandsen, you have to wonder how consistent people like Danny Espinosa and Tyler Moore will be coming off the bench. The last two years, the bench has not been productive.
Why didn't Espinosa work on hitting right-handed exclusively after the season ended? If Espinosa made that transition successfully, he would be the answer at second base.
-- George M., Washington
Due to the Nationals acquiring Yunel Escobar, it tells me Escobar is going to be the second baseman and Espinosa will be on the bench. Nobody told me this, but I think Espinosa will hit from both sides of the plate. The Nats hope that he can improve from the left side, and to do so, he has to cut down on the strikeouts from that side of the plate.
How come Jeff Kobernus is not being considered for the starting second-base job? Why not have a young, cost-controlled guy play every day?
-- Scott H., Herndon, Va.
Escobar is under club control for at least two years. The Nationals consider Kobernus more of an outfielder than a second baseman. During Spring Training, Kobernus will likely get most of his time in the outfield. He has a chance to be one of the bench players this spring.
Asdrubal Cabrera signed with the Rays for one-year, $7.5 million. Why couldn't the Nats make that deal? Or something close to it?
-- Mark L., Sarasota, Fla.
I thought the Nationals made the right move in letting Cabrera go. In my opinion, Cabrera was not impressive with Washington. I thought he was OK defensively, but his bat was slow. Cabrera was willing to take a similar deal with the Nationals, but they were not interested in bringing him back at that price.
Why didn't the Nats consider Tyler Clippard as their closer?
-- Marci W., Washington
The Nationals are comfortable with Drew Storen as the closer. Clippard will be a free agent after the season, and I didn't see him re-signing with the Nationals, because he wants to become a closer. So one could understand why Washington traded Clippard to Oakland last month. Keep in mind that Clippard was a closer in 2012, but he slumped at the end of the season.
I know he's had plenty of success as a general manager, but I'm surprised Mike Rizzo doesn't feel any sense of urgency to try to sign Desmond or Jordan Zimmermann to an extension. What are your thoughts on this?
-- Ken E., Weyers Cave, Va.
Although things have been quiet, I believe Zimmermann and Desmond will be on the front burner once Spring Training starts later this month. I'd be surprised if the Nationals let both players go in trades. Yes, the Nats have Escobar, but he's not Desmond. While Stephen Strasburg gets all the hype, Zimmermann has been the team's best pitcher the last two years. I believe Zimmermann will go on to do greater things on the mound -- hopefully, it's with the Nationals.