3. Washington Nationals
With their absolutely electrifying comeback over the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card behind them, the Nationals will move onto the NLDS where they will attempt to win their first playoff series in franchise history. Postseason success has been a long time coming for the Nats, whose 93-year-old owner is desperate to win a World Series title. Money seems to be no object at this point for the Lerner family, even if they’ll be paying out contracts from this current roster for a few more decades.
The Nationals will enter the offseason staring down another looming free agency for a franchise icon. Last year was Bryce Harper‘s turn, this year, Anthony Rendon gets to test the open market coming off an MVP-caliber season. The Nats have already made a healthy offer to their third baseman, but he isn’t going to give up his chance at free agency at this point.
Re-signing Rendon is a definite possibility for the Nationals, but there’s no guarantee they won’t be outbid by a team like the New York Yankees. Washington was able to absorb the loss of Harper because Rendon more than stepped up to fill his role as driving force and Juan Soto had a monster second season. Keeping it going without Rendon and no additional superstar may prove difficult for the Nationals.
The trio of aces at the top of the Nationals rotation — Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin — will keep the team in the playoff race next year regardless of who is hitting, but truly contending for a World Series again without a second star bat will be difficult. The Nats have an elite trade chip in outfielder Victor Robles to dangle, as well as young shortstop Carter Kieboom.