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Commentary: Nationals Should Address Off-Season Priorities

Charles E. Sutton | 10/22/2012, 2:17 p.m.

The Washington Nationals had tremendous success no one expected this season, with the exception of manager Davey Johnson, who spread the word in spring training that they should win the National League East.

In all likelihood, the Nationals will continue to have success. Their roster is full of young, talented players who will learn from the horrible Game 5 loss to St. Louis in the National League Division Series. They made it to the playoffs a year earlier than expected, but should have more playoff appearances in the future.

How much success they have down the road may depend on how the organization deals with its off-season priorities.

The biggest priority is getting Johnson to come back as manager. He indicated earlier this week that he would like to return next season. Though he made several questionable decisions in that 9-7 loss to the Cardinals, he led an inexperienced, young team to 98 victories and the NL East championship.

The Nationals initially hired Johnson as a consultant, and he became manager when Jim Riggleman quit in the middle of the 2011 season. General Manager Mike Rizzo has said as long as he has the responsibility of GM, Johnson will have a place in the organization. Going forward, any deal involving Johnson managing the team will have to be negotiated, and the owners will have to pay him major league money.

Another big priority is Adam LaRoche. The first baseman could leave the Nationals, coming off an outstanding season and looking to capitalize on it with a large contract. LaRoche is a key player for this team with his left-handed power in a right-handed lineup, and his great defense at first base. But he may simply choose to sign with the highest bidder.

If the Nationals can't sign LaRoche, does rookie Tyler Moore replace him at first base? They really like Tyler Moore, but he's a right-handed hitter in a lineup that will need to have a left-handed batter somewhere in the middle of it.

Will the team choose to keep their outfield intact or will they go after a prototype center fielder and leadoff hitter like Atlanta's Michael Bourn? What they don't need to do is add more strikeouts to a lineup that already has plenty of them.

These are priorities that the organization will have to deal with this off-season. How they deal with them could go a long way in determining how much future success they actually have.