Rizzo likes Nats' flexibility entering offseason

Breakout star Turner provides GM with option at SS, 2B, CF

Rizzo likes Nats' flexibility entering offseason

CHICAGO -- It is not easy to evaluate the Nationals' 2016 season, in a year when they won 95 games and their third National League East title in the past five seasons and then lost in the NL Division Series for the third time.

Two weeks after that Game 5 loss to the Dodgers ended Washington's season, general manager Mike Rizzo said he viewed this year as "a successful season that ended poorly."

"We played a good, steady brand of baseball all year," Rizzo said. "We had the second-best record in all of baseball. We won the division for the third time in five years. I think all in all it was a successful season. But again, we didn't get to our ultimate success, which is winning the World Series."

Rizzo addressed a variety of topics during a 15-minute end-of-season conference call Thursday afternoon, looking back on the 2016 season and looking ahead on their plans for the offseason.

He pointed to the versatility of his current roster, which starts with Trea Turner, whose breakout performance as a rookie established him as the team's leadoff hitter for 2017, although it is unclear what position he will play.

"We see him as an everyday player," Rizzo said. "We see him as a guy that gets consistent, everyday at-bats. But what he has shown is that he can excel at shortstop, he can excel at second base and in center field. It allows us to build around that, meaning that it gives us more options in the marketplace to improve the ballclub."

The Nationals go into the offseason without any lingering health concerns, and with the exception of Wilson Ramos, who had surgery to repair a torn ACL last week, none of their players will have offseason surgery. After missing the final month of the season and postseason, Stephen Strasburg is also expected to have a full offseason and be ready for Spring Training.

And then there is Bryce Harper, who followed up his 2015 NL MVP campaign with a disappointing 2016 season. The Nationals shot down reports citing injuries as a reason for his struggles all season, and Rizzo said he was not concerned.

"I'm not going to worry too much about it, I know that," Rizzo said. "I know when Bryce Harper is Bryce Harper he's one of the best players in baseball. I expect him to be next year in Spring Training and one of the best players in the game. I won't lose too much sleep over Bryce Harper's ability level and his performance."

Harper also provides some potential flexibility for the Nationals this offseason. If they decide to return Turner back to the infield, Harper could be a candidate to start in center field. Rizzo said he preferred Harper in right field, but also praised his ability to play center if needed.

"The one thing that we see is, we have a very versatile roster," Rizzo said. "We can go in a lot of different directions to improve our ballclub. We haven't gotten really into too many specifics yet. But we see a lot of opportunities and a lot of different ways and different venues to improve the ballclub, mostly because of the versatility of the players we have."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.