Despite having Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and the up-and-coming Michael Taylor in store, the Nationals made it clear with their pursuit of Jason Heyward in free agency that they are not content with their current outfield group. Some reports had the Nats offering upwards of $200 million to Heyward, more than the $184 million he took to sign with the Chicago Cubs.
Heyward also bats left-handed, which is a need the Nationals are looking to fill this offseason. And though they struck out on the biggest name out there, whose to say they won't move on and continue looking for a similar player? Even GM Mike Rizzo has publicly admitted the team was interested in Heyward.
"It was a disappointment obviously that we didn't land Jason who's a terrific player, a great citizen and an all-around good guy," Rizzo said. "We made an aggressive, legitimate market value offer to a terrific player and he decided to take it elsewhere."
Harper is obviously not going anywhere having just won the MVP award, but there are questions with both Werth and Taylor. Werth turns 37 in May and played in only 88 games last season. Over the past four years with the Nats he has averaged 111 games played per season.
"I think [I can still play every day]. At some point, that's not going to be the case," Werth said. "You can't outrun Father Time. Then you throw some injuries in there, so. I know I'm at the end of my career more so than the beginning."
For Taylor, it is about fulfilling potential. He turns 25 in March and is one of the most promising young players in the Nats' organization, but he has only 155 MLB games under his belt. His talents are obvious, but he provides no guarantees with a .227 career average so far.
Taylor has heard all of the Heyward reports and knows few things are promised to him right now.
"I'm happy for [Heyward]. He got a great contract," Taylor said. "That's something that I'm not focused on right now. I feel like with my game, if I go out there and be the best I can, that's really all I can do. Just see where the chips fall after that."
One wrinkle in the Nationals' search is the fact that whoever they acquired would likely have to play center field. Harper was moved to right field before 2015 and they like him there. He thrived defensively and seems to have found his permanent home.
Needing someone to play center field could exclude the next-best lefty outfielder, Alex Gordon, from their search. Gordon is an excellent player with four Gold Gloves and three All-Star appearances, but he turns 32 in February and has never played center field at the big league level.
Dexter Fowler would be next up on that list, as he bats switch, but he's not a huge upgrade from Taylor. He does, however, hold a .363 career on-base percentage, which looks great next to Taylor's .282 OBP in 2015.
Another name to watch is Gerardo Parra, whom the Nationals were interested in back in July as the MLB trade deadline approached. There is also Denard Span, who was great for the Nationals the last three seasons but is currently rehabbing from hip surgery. He also dealt with back and abdominal muscle issues this past season.
"We certainly have kept in contact with [Span]," Rizzo said. "He's a guy that we really enjoyed his time here and the main thing about him is we have to see where his health is as we move forward in the offseason."
The Nationals' offseason still remains very much a work in progress. They have made minor moves, but nothing to significantly upgrade their roster. They appear intent on getting outfield help, but it may not be easy now that Heyward is off the market.