Meetings provide setting for Nats' aggressive moves

GM Rizzo has flexibility, resources to go after big names

Meetings provide setting for Nats' aggressive moves

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals can be considered the home team when the Winter Meetings arrive in Washington next week, and they find themselves in an advantageous situation. General manager Mike Rizzo has the resources to be aggressive when addressing the club's needs.

The Nats will be one of the teams to watch because they have the financial flexibility to spend on potential free agents, the prospects to pull off a potential blockbuster trade and the roster flexibility that gives them a number of different options.

MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2016 Winter Meetings from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C. Fans can watch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, including the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 8 at 9 a.m. ET.

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It's all part of the challenge to get the Nationals beyond the National League Division Series, a point they have reached three times in the past five years after winning the NL East, but their journey has ended there.

Their main priority will almost certainly be addressing the back end of the bullpen. They will be one of the teams in the market for an elite closer, which could include re-signing their ninth-inning man for the second half of last season, Mark Melancon, or making a run at free agents Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen.

Wilson Ramos was their starting catcher last season, but he is a free agent who tore his right ACL in September and will not be ready for the start of the season. The Nationals could explore the market to find a potential replacement, or bring a veteran catcher into Spring Training to compete for the job.

There have been reports of the Nats' interest in White Sox ace Chris Sale and Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen. They have the ability to pull off a potential mega-deal because of their deep farm system, even though they still seem unlikely to unload any of their most valued prospects. Rizzo has shown in the past -- particularly when he signed Max Scherzer as a free agent before the 2015 season -- that he is willing to make any deal to make his team better, even when there is no apparent team need.

Mike Rizzo on Nats' offseason

The Nationals have the freedom to pull off a big trade in part because of their flexible roster. They could acquire a corner outfielder and move Trea Turner back to his natural position at shortstop and Bryce Harper to center, if necessary. That could open up a trade for Danny Espinosa, or the infielder could move to the bench as a utility player. Perhaps they find another starting pitcher, which Rizzo has said a team can never have enough of, and that may lead to trading the affordable contract of left-hander Gio Gonzalez.

Rizzo has said the Nationals cannot "spend widely," although they have found creative ways to structure contracts with deferred money in order to sign expensive free agents in the past.

So while Washington has been mostly quiet so far this offseason, it is not expected to stay that way. The Winter Meetings could be the beginning.

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.