The Nationals have two big free agents this winter in Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond. It’s extremely likely the front office will allow both to walk. The Nationals are at a point where they should no longer be aggressively adding salary. Zimmermann will command a hefty raise. Desmond’s offensive skills leave a lot to be desired. It’s hard to justify keeping him on for $15-20 million. The home runs Desmond hits are nice, but he’s strikeout-prone and a free-swinger. His defense leaves something to be desired, as well. The Nationals will be better off allowing someone else to spend big on Desmond.
With Zimmermann and Desmond walking out the door, Joe Ross and Trea Turner, the two prospects the Nationals fleeced the San Diego Padres for last winter, will have to step up. Ross was very good in his 13 starts. He limits walks, and has much more poise than one would expect of a 22-year-old who began the year in Double-A. Ross can be a lite version of Zimmermann. He throws a heavy fastball with good sinking action, and mixes in a slider and changeup. The secondary pitches will only continue to get better. Ross, not Gio Gonzalez, should slot in behind Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg next year.
Turner is another member of the 2014 draft class to reach the big leagues in rapid fashion. The 22-year-old shortstop is a polished hitter with good speed. His defense may take some time getting up to speed at the highest level of baseball, but offensively, Turner will not be a huge downgrade from Desmond. Where Desmond has Turner beat in home runs, Turner exceeds Desmond in ability to hit for average and reach base. Within a few years, Turner could be a consistent .300-hitter with 30 steals.