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With Zimmermann gone, what happens to Nats rotation?

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With Zimmermann gone, what happens to Nats rotation?

Jordan Zimmermann leaving the Nationals as a free agent was essentially a foregone conclusion, so much so that the team has probably been making long-term plans without him in mind for months. And now that it's official, the question becomes what is next for their pitching staff. Who will step in to fill Zimmermann's place in the rotation, and is that player already within the organization?

As of this morning, the Nationals' 2016 rotation projects like this:

RHP Max Scherzer (14-12, 2.49)
RHP Stephen Strasburg (11-7, 3.46)
LHP Gio Gonzalez (11-8, 3.79)
RHP Joe Ross (5-5, 3.64)
RHP Tanner Roark (4-7, 4.38)

**stats are from 2015 season**

That's still a pretty good group. It is probably good enough to get the Nationals back to the playoffs as is, barring injuries or something unforeseen.

But 'good enough' has not stopped the Nationals in recent years from upgrading their starting staff and doing something unexpected along the way. Remember, the Nationals had the best rotation ERA in 2014 before they forked over $210 million to sign Scherzer, the biggest free agent on the market last winter.

The Nats certainly have that option this year, if they want to dip back into free agency. This year's class is loaded with David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, John Lackey, Yovani Gallardo and Jeff Samardzija headlining a group that is rare in its depth of star power. That route, however, costs lots of money. Just because Zimmermann signed for five years and $110 million, doesn't mean others would. Cueto, for instance, is aiming for over $140 million.

If they choose to make a change, they could also try to trade for a starter, as they did for Doug Fister before the 2014 season and Gio before 2012. Both of those trades involved giving up multiple prospects for a proven veteran player under team control beyond one season.

Guys of Fister and Gio's ilk are not easy to find, but San Diego's Tyson Ross (Joe's brother) and Tampa Bay's Alex Cobb are two examples of excellent starting pitchers who do not hit free agency until after the 2017 season. The 2016 class of starting pitching free agents is not a good one, but the group set for the following year is decent.

There is also the option of promoting from within. Ross and Roark fit that mold and both are capable starters. Ross, in particular, has a very good chance of being in the Nats' 2016 rotation after taking Fister's place in 2015.

Roark, though, has no guarantees. If the Nats weren't convinced in him as a starter after he held a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts in 2014, will they change their tune after he posted a 4.82 ERA in 12 starts in 2015?

Beyond Ross, the Nationals also have super prospect Lucas Giolito waiting in the wings. He could conceivably win a rotation spot out of spring training, or take one midseason after starting in the minors. But he's only 21 years old and is still building his way back from Tommy John surgery. Last season he threw a career-high of 117 innings.

The Nationals have a fine rotation as it currently stands, but we have also said that before at this time of the year. Will they do something unexpected?

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With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

WASHINGTON  -- The Washington Nationals say they have agreed to a one-year deal with 40-year-old reliever Joaquin Benoit.

The team announced the move Wednesday, along with placing pitcher Joe Ross on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in July.

The Nationals didn't release terms of the agreement, though a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Monday that it was for $1 million.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal wasn't official at the time.

MORE NATIONALS: FULL 2018 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

Benoit is a right-hander who first reached the big leagues in 2001. 

He has played for eight teams, finishing last year with Pittsburgh.

He has 764 career appearances, going 58-49 with a 3.83 ERA and 53 saves.

RELATED: 2018 MLB BETTING ODDS

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It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE