1. Will the Nationals work out a contract extension with Adam LaRoche? The first baseman was great with his bat and invaluable with his glove. He hit .271 with 33 home runs and 100 RBI as the cleanup hitter and was the only member of the middle of the lineup who didn’t miss significant time with injury. There is a $10 million mutual option on his contract, but LaRoche almost certainly could find a multiyear deal on the free agent market. The Nationals already have begun talks and would like to keep him, but working out a deal or parting ways will determine much of their remaining offseason plans.
2. If they don’t re-sign LaRoche, who will play first base and how will it affect their offseason? The Nationals have two good in-house candidates in Michael Morse and Tyler Moore. Losing LaRoche’s left-handed bat would be an issue, but the Nationals have the personnel to cover the loss defensively, and it could free them up to pursue a top center fielder.
3. Will manager Davey Johnson return? Johnson has a few vacations planned this winter with his wife, but every indication is he would like to return, and the Nationals would love to have him. Essentially, the ball is in Johnson’s court, but it would be a shock to see anyone else zipping up that short-sleeved windbreaker come February.
4. Will the Nationals acquire another starting pitcher? Edwin Jackson’s one-year deal is up. The Nationals could make him a qualifying offer and try to keep him for 2013 on a salary that’s unlikely to be much more than the $11 million he made in 2012. They’re also planning to convert hard-throwing right-hander Christian Garcia back to a starter and give him the chance to make the rotation out of camp. Also, it’s unclear if the team will tender John Lannan a contract. How they view the candidates for the No. 5 starter spot will determine their course of action here.
5. Which Nationals will need offseason surgery and will it affect them for next year? Sean Burnett likely will have the bone spurs in his left elbow removed but it’s not expected to affect his offseason. Ryan Zimmerman, who had four cortisone shots this season, still may need an arthritic section in his AC joint cleaned out with arthroscopic surgery. Michael Morse (wrist), Danny Espinosa (shoulder) and Ian Desmond (hamstring) were dealing with injuries as the season ended. The Nationals hope to start spring training healthy, so figuring out which of these issues needs surgical attention should happen soon.