What will Nationals do this offseason to contend again in 2014?

Starting pitching

The Nationals were fortunate, in a way, that their lack of depth in the rotation allowed them to put two young right-handers to the test in Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark. Both penned strong resumes to take into spring training as they compete for a possible No. 5 spot in the rotation.

The team expects Ross Detwiler (herniated disc) to return healthy, giving it four set starters. Jordan, Roark and perhaps Ross Ohlendorf could all compete for that No. 5 spot. The free-agent crop is also filled with veteran starters like Bronson Arroyo and Hiroki Kuroda, or players who’ll likely command more years and dollars, like Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco and Matt Garza.

Or the Nationals could make a bold move. Having rebuilt their minor league system fairly well, perhaps the Nationals look higher, and target someone like Rays ace David Price with a package of those prospects. To be sure, though, it would take a haul to get Price — depleting the Nationals’ depth yet again — and likely including talent from the major league roster as well.

Extending their own

The Nationals’ starting eight positions are largely set, with the team expecting Anthony Rendon, Lombardozzi and Danny Espinosa to compete for the second base job in the spring, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to do with their existing roster.

Shortstop Ian Desmond and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann are both entering their second-to-last year of arbitration and Rizzo said trying to work out a potential contract extension with both marquee players is high on the priority list.

“Desi is one of our core players,” Rizzo said. “He’s one of our leaders on the team. If there’s a deal out there that we can get done that keeps him here for the long-term, it would be certainly up there on the priority list. It’s going to be a deal that would have to work for both parties.

Asked if the same would go for Zimmermann, Rizzo agreed. “He’s one of our own. We drafted, developed and signed him. He’s one of the really good pitchers in the league. We’d certainly like to keep him on our team.”

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