WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have announced their Spring Training reporting dates, with pitchers and catchers due in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Feb. 14 and position players to follow Feb. 17.
So as the countdown begins, the Nats have a few items on their to-do list before they pack up for Florida. This week's Inbox takes a look at another potential closing option, bench possibilities, questions about starting pitching health and depth ... and Mike Trout.
The Nationals and A's have proven to be strong trade partners over the years, and I believe the A's have a few players to fit the Nats' needs. Do you think Washington could trade for Sean Doolittle and Stephen Vogt?
-- Drew D., Leesburg, Va.
The Nationals and A's have been frequent trade partners recently, completing six trades since 2013 and eight since '11, including players such as Gio Gonzalez, Yunel Escobar, Blake Treinen and most recently Marc Rzepczynski this past August. So Mike Rizzo and Billy Beane are certainly comfortable dealing with each other.
Doolittle would be a nice fit for the Nationals in the ninth inning. Primarily a setup man this past season, he has been effective when healthy, has closing experience, was an All-Star in 2014 and is under team control until '20. Vogt's versatility as a catcher with the ability to play first base and the outfield could be attractive to the Nats as well, even though they have insisted they are set at catcher with Derek Norris.
Oakland doesn't seem to be openly shopping its players at the moment, however, so perhaps it plans on hanging on to Doolittle for now. However, he could become an attractive name near the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. So yes, a deal certainly makes sense if they can figure out a way to get it done.
Wilmer Difo is the only middle infielder on the 40-man roster, other than the starters. It seems to me the Nats need another infielder on the bench. Emmanuel Burriss seems to be the only other option. What do you think?
-- Dan C., Montreal
Difo made the National League Division Series roster, which is as clear a sign as any that the Nats are comfortable with him as a bench option. But the Nationals are going to put some work into filling out their bench before Spring Training. Stephen Drew, who is still a free agent, was an important part of that bench last season, and if he can not find a starting job, Washington could try to re-sign him. The Nats also give players who receive Spring Training invites serious looks with a chance to make the Major League roster, so if Burriss is impressive this spring, he could certainly make the team.
@JamalCollier The offseason trades seem to point to the Nats believing stras is going to be healthy, why would they think that?
By all accounts -- from the Nationals, his agent Scott Boras and Stephen Strasburg himself -- he is enjoying a normal offseason after his year ended prematurely from a strained pronator tendon. The fact that he was working toward a comeback and throwing bullpen sessions during the postseason has eased any concern about how that injury will react once he begins throwing.
So, Strasburg is on track to start this season healthy. And Washington is looking into ways to keep him healthy for the entire season, especially so it would not have to begin another postseason without him. The Nats are still developing that plan, but it could result in some alteration in his throwing program between starts among other adjustments. Plus, once Washington committed to a seven-year, $175 million contract with Strasburg, it was a sign that the team believes he can stay healthy.
With the trade to the White Sox, I'm concerned that the Nats have denuded their farm system of Major League-ready top prospect pitchers. In case of injury to any of the top six Major Leaguers, it seems that there will be no "next man up" to fill in.
-- Larry L., Sliver Spring, Md.
This is also something the Nationals could also plan to address in the weeks before Spring Training. Beyond their top five starters and A.J. Cole, the Nats don't have any other starters with Major League experience on their 40-man roster. Austin Voth was added to the 40-man this offseason and is the most Major League-ready, but he still might need some seasoning before he is ready.
Perhaps the Nats could bring in some veteran starters to Spring Training, like they did last year with Bronson Arroyo, to compete for rotation spots and as insurance in case of an injury. What will it take to get Trout? Sure he would like to play for a winnèr.
-- Kathy E, Annandale, Va.
First off, this isn't going to happen, but how cool would it be to have Bryce Harper and Trout back-to-back in the same lineup? After the prospects the Nats surrendered to acquire Adam Eaton, I was curious what kind of package they could build for Trout and if it would it be enough in this fake trade scenario.
Shortstop Trea Turner and center fielder Victor Robles would certainly both have to be included in the deal, and probably right-hander Joe Ross. The only other current Nationals prospect in the Top 100, as rated by MLBPipeline.com, is Erick Fedde at No. 75. So it's unlikely the Nats would be able to offer a more enticing package than teams like the Yankees or Dodgers. Also, the Angels are not trading Trout at the moment, but it's still fun to think about.
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.