What to make of the Nats' quiet winter?

What to make of the Nats' quiet winter?
January 8, 2013, 9:30 am
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If your complete attention over the last month was commandeered by the holidays, the Redskins and the fiscal cliff, let's recap all the Nationals news you missed:

[Cue sound of crickets chirping.]

Uh, guess you really didn't miss anything at all. Indeed, the Nationals haven't completed a transaction involving their major-league roster in -- get this -- 32 days. Yep, the last baseball-related announcement coming out of the offices at 1500 South Capitol Street was the Dec. 7 revelation that Dan Haren passed his physical and thus officially signed his $13 million contract.

Not that the building was abuzz with activity prior to that. With five weeks to go until pitchers and catchers report to Viera, Fla., the Nationals have added only two players to their big-league roster (Haren and Denard Span) while re-signing one of their free agents (Zach Duke).

That's it.

They've lost a handful of free agents to other clubs: Sean Burnett to the Angels, Edwin Jackson to the Cubs, John Lannan to the Phillies, Michael Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny to the Brewers. But with the exception of perhaps Gonzalez, they didn't express much interest in bringing any of those players back for another season.

Contrast this to the flurry of moves Mike Rizzo and Co. made last winter: Signing Jackson, Brad Lidge, Chad Tracy and Mark DeRosa, re-signing Rick Ankiel and Chien-Ming Wang, trading four prospects for Gio Gonzalez, trading Collin Balester for Ryan Perry.

So, what to make of all this inaction by Rizzo since the final out of Game 5 of the NLDS nearly three months ago? Is there reason to be concerned that this organization hasn't made very many changes to its roster? Or is it actually a sign of just how strong that roster was all along, in need of only a couple of tweaks but not any significant overhaul?

The optimistic view is that this was a team that didn't need major changes. It won 98 games last season, and nearly every player of consequence (most under the age of 30) will be back this year.

The rotation needed one starter to replace Jackson, which Rizzo got in Haren (an upgrade assuming he's healthy). The lineup needed a traditional leadoff hitter and center fielder, which Rizzo got in Span. First base remains a question mark, but whether it's Adam LaRoche returning on a two-year deal or Michael Morse sliding over from left field, the club will be satisfied with the end result.

The bullpen could probably use another left-hander, but that's not cause for panic. The bench, meanwhile, is already set, with at least three members talented enough to start for many big-league clubs.

Given all that, it's hard to find fault with the Nationals' lack of Hot Stove action.

At the same time, it's an awfully strange feeling for anyone who has followed this franchise over the years. With the exception perhaps of an uneventful 2006-07 offseason, every winter in Nationals history has featured at least one major roster move, whether the trades for Alfonso Soriano and Gonzalez or the signings of Adam Dunn and Jayson Werth.

Barring an out-of-nowhere surprise from Rizzo, it doesn't appear there will be a comparable transaction this winter.

Chalk it up as yet another sign of how far this franchise has come.