Nashville, TN - In his Winter Meetings press conference, still glowing from signing starting pitcher Dan Haren this morning, Nationals manager Davey Johnson addressed the media to discuss where he sees his ballclub in 2013.
Johnson was immediately nostalgic for the success his team had in the 2012 season. "This is one of the best ballclubs I've ever had," Johnson said, and noted that, "I have a love of the game and I have a love of the organization." Though the Nationals didn't end their postseason run quite as he had hoped, Johnson decided to return for the 2013 season because he is confident that his team is prepared to compete and capitalize on their successes of this season.
"We are prepared to handle any situation thrown at us," Johnson added. When asked about moves they need to make this offseason to contend next year, Johnson said "we don't need to do a whole lot in the winter."
The Nationals roster may be mostly complete now that Haren shores up the rotation, and Johnson was excited to have a strong veteran starter joining the rotation, and said that he is a good fit for the team because he's a great athlete, leader, and hitter. The addition of Haren is the writing on the wall for Edwin Jackson, who will now bounce to the ninth team of his career as a free agent.
Of course, the biggest missing piece to the Nationals' equation is whether or not first baseman Adam LaRoche will accept an offer to stay with the team. Johnson reiterated that he'd love to have LaRoche back with the team for good and said, "[Adam] LaRoche is going to come back. If I have to go to Kansas and take him and all his cattle to Florida, I will." If the Nationals do re-sign LaRoche, it likely means that Michael Morse will be on the trading block, given the depth they already have in the outfield with this season's players and the addition of Denard Span.
As for the bullpen, Johnson discussed the possibility of stretching out right-handed pitcher Christian Garcia to long relief this season, saying that he'd be insurance for the starting rotation. Johnson also seemed comfortable with the idea of only having two left-handers in the bullpen and has faith that his pitchers are capable of working in a variety of capacities next season.
In all, Johnson is confident that the Nationals can pick up where they left off last season. He said that he hadn't spoken to Stephen Strasburg yet, but that he knows all of his players will show up excited and ready to play in the spring and that he's ready for the season and recognizes that a lot of people will see the his team as the favorites in the NL East.