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Should the Nats go for broke in '13?

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Should the Nats go for broke in '13?

Throughout their history in Washington -- and most definitely in the four years since Mike Rizzo became general manager -- the Nationals have adhered to one simple philosophy when it comes to player acquisitions and roster building: All moves must be in the best long-term interests of the organization.

It's a philosophy that has done the Nationals well, allowing them to build a team that not only reached the postseason for the first time this year but is built to keep on winning for years to come.

Might it be an appropriate time, however, to tweak that philosophy? For the first time in their history, might the Nationals sacrifice long-term potential in exchange for short-term satisfaction?

This might be the most compelling, over-arching question of the offseason. Clearly, this is a team that will enter 2013 with a real shot at winning the World Series, no matter what moves Rizzo makes before pitchers and catchers report for spring training. But there are moves Rizzo could make to bolster his club's chances of immediate success, if he's willing to perhaps hinder his chances of winning down the road.

It starts, really, with Adam LaRoche, the most-pressing offseason question facing the Nationals. Both Rizzo and the free agent want to continue their marriage, hoping to build off a fantastic 2012 that saw LaRoche win both the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove at first baseman while finishing in a sixth-place tie for NL MVP.

There's no question LaRoche's return would give the Nationals a better chance of winning the World Series in 2013. But the only way LaRoche will be playing in D.C. in 2013 is if he gets a long-term contract, most likely with at least three years guaranteed.

The Nationals may be willing to meet those demands, but doing so could hamstring them down the road. With LaRoche locked up through, say, 2015, there might be no spot on the diamond for young slugger Tyler Moore, or no vacant spot that would permit Michael Morse or Ryan Zimmerman to some day make a position switch. And, of course, there's no guarantee LaRoche would still be a 30-homer, 100-RBI threat at age 35 in year three of a contract that could turn into an albatross.

Speaking of Morse, he figures into this dilemma as well. Signed for one more season at a reasonable salary of $6.75 million, he'll be poised to strike it rich next winter as a free agent. Given all the other long-term financial commitments the Nationals already have on the books (Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez) and those they would like to add in the very near future (Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann) there probably isn't enough money left over to re-sign Morse.

Which is why you've heard some speculation the slugger could be traded this winter. Rather than lose him via free agency and receive a draft pick as compensation, Rizzo could be inclined to seek a deal now that would bring a larger return back to Washington.

That would certainly be a wise long-term strategy. But if the Nationals are more interested in going for broke in 2013, they'd much rather keep Morse one more season and then let him walk away after that.

And then there's the dilemma in center field, a longstanding issue for the Nationals that could easily be resolved this winter if they're willing to pony up for one of two big-name free agents on the market: Michael Bourn or B.J. Upton. Either would make a nice addition to the lineup, particularly the leadoff-hitting Bourn.

But the cost to acquire either free agent could be a five-year contract, one that would certainly have long-term ramifications for the organization. Would Bourn help the Nationals win right now? Absolutely? Would he still be as helpful in 2017, more than someone the Nats could promote from their own farm system like Brian Goodwin? That's debatable.

Put this all together, and it becomes clear Rizzo faces quite an interesting dilemma this winter. He could decide to go for broke, play all his cards and assemble a roster that has the very best chance of winning a championship in 2013. Or he could decide to stick with the plan that has worked so well to this point, making calculated additions that give the Nationals a chance to win now but not at the expense of winning in the future.

It's a dilemma the Nationals have never faced before, but it's certainly one worth considering now that they suddenly find themselves in a position they've never held before.

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Bryce Harper explains 10th inning ejection vs. Rockies: 'It's not a strike'

Bryce Harper explains 10th inning ejection vs. Rockies: 'It's not a strike'

Bryce Harper is not one to back down when it comes to arguments with umpires, even after he's been ejected from a game and has time to cool down and collect his thoughts.

So, it should probably come as no surprise that on Saturday after he was tossed in the 10th inning of the Nats' loss to the Colorado Rockies, Harper referred to home plate umpire Mark Winters' called strike three as a "mistake." 

Here is Harper, in detail, on the call that led to him throwing his helmet to the ground and confronting Winters, who immediately sent him to the showers:

"You're in a game like that, 4-4 in the 10th, you get to a 2-2 count. He throws a pitch off the plate which they said was a strike, which was a ball. I was reading it all the way in. If you look at the tape, I was looking down at the ball the whole way into the glove and it was just, you know, it was off the plate. I could possibly see one more pitch and maybe hit a homer or a double or walk. I could even strike out. But I just wanted to see that last pitch and I never got there. It just shouldn't happen. Just bad [call] there. It's not a strike," he said.

"You don't want an umpire to make a mistake in that big of a situation. That's just not good. I wanted to see that last pitch. We could have possibly not played the 11th or the 12th or whatever. I mean, getting on base with [Anthony] Rendon behind me would have been huge as well, possibly could have stolen second, a ball hit to the ride side and you never know."

On if Harper regretted his actions, he did concede it was not a good time to be tossed, given the game was tied and the Nats had a chance to beat the Rockies.

"I know we had a short bench. I think going into it you don't ever want to get ejected," he said.

Manager Dusty Baker didn't offer a harsh assessment to Harper's ejection. He basically described it as just part of the game.

"Everybody blows up from time to time," he said. "These things happen. Especially it happens this time of year tempers are short. It’s hot, played a lot of games, been around the same people for a long period of time. This is the time of year when tempers do flare up.”

Outfielder Jayson Werth was brief in his comments on Harper. But did note how this isn't the first time for the reigning MVP. Harper has now been ejected from eight games in his career.

"I’ve been kicked out of one game my whole career. Bryce, on the other hand, has been kicked out of multiple," he said.

[RELATED: Harper ejected after arguing balls and strikes]

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Nationals tap Lucas Giolito to start Sunday against Colorado Rockies

Nationals tap Lucas Giolito to start Sunday against Colorado Rockies

The Nationals have chosen right-hander Lucas Giolito to start on Sunday against the Colorado Rockies, as their revolving door of rookies making spot starts continues.

Giolito, 22, last pitched for the Nationals on July 24 against the San Diego Padres. He has made three big league starts this season with six earned runs allowed on 12 hits and nine walks in 11 total innings. 

Giolito has faced the Padres once and the Mets twice. On Sunday, he will see a lineup that is much more formidable in the Rockies.

"I’m hoping he throws up a gem against a very tough lineup," manager Dusty Baker said.

Since his last MLB start, Giolito has pitched five times for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. He gave up nine earned runs in 22 2/3 innings during that stretch.

A former 16th overall pick, Giolito is ranked by many outlets as the top pitching prospect in baseball. He is the top prospect overall in the Nationals minor league system.

Giolito made his MLB debut against the New York Mets on June 28.

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Yusmeiro Petit allows 5 runs in 11th, as Nats fall to Rockies

Yusmeiro Petit allows 5 runs in 11th, as Nats fall to Rockies

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 9-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies in extra innings on Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park.

How it happened: The Colorado Rockies' lineup is relentless and powerful, and they have a unique ability to pressure opposing teams into making uncharacteristic mistakes. The Nationals fell 9-4 in 11 innings to Colorado on Saturday and made numerous unforced errors along the way.

One Rockies run came in on a wild pitch during an intentional walk thrown by starter A.J. Cole. Newly-acquired lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski made a throwing error in the seventh inning that helped lead to a run. And reliever Yusmeiro Petit allowed a pair of two-run homers in the 11th to seal the Nationals' fate.

It was another poor defensive performance for the Nats in a long string of them. They committed two errors and that count didn't include another mistake by Rzepczynski, who dropped a ball in the ninth when fielding a bunt. The error he was charged with was on a groundball by D.J. LeMahieu in the seventh. Rzepczynski made an underhand throw to first base that sailed over Ryan Zimmerman's head. That allowed Charlie Blackmon to reach third and eventually score.

It was Blackmon who hit the first homer off Petit in the 11th. The next was by Carlos Gonzalez, his 200th career bomb. Petit also gave up another run on a single by Nick Hundley in an overall disaster of an outing.

The Nats scored their first three runs in the fourth inning. Bryce Harper landed an RBI double to left field. Wilson Ramos smacked an RBI single and Danny Espinosa brought in another run on a groundout to second base. 

They pushed the game to extra innings on a Jayson Werth RBI single with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth. He singled to left field to score Ben Revere, who walked and stole second base to set it all up. Werth's RBI was off Adam Ottavino, who saw his 37-game scoreless streak snapped. This came just one series after the Nats broke Orioles closer Zach Britton's then MLB-best 43 consecutive scoreless appearance streak.

Harper was later ejected for arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Mark Winters in the bottom of the 10th. He went off over a called strike three and threw his helmet at the ground. Winters immediately tossed him. It was Harper's eighth career ejection and his second of this season.

Rookie A.J. Cole took a no-decision in his first home start as a National. He went 5 2/3 innings with three runs allowed on four hits and three walks. He served up a homer to Blackmon - the first of two for the Rockies All-Star - allowed an RBI single to pitcher Jorge De La Rosa and brought another run home on the wild pitch.

The Nats have lost five of their last seven games.

What it means: The Nationals dropped to 75-54 overall on the season. They are 2-3 against the Rockies in 2016.

Harper keeps rolling: Harper's double was his fourth extra-base hit in his last four games and his third to opposite field. That is a very good sign for the reigning MVP, who when at his best can spread hits around the field as good as anyone in baseball. With that double, Harper has reached base in all 14 games since he returned from his neck injury. He also walked and has reached base twice in five straight games and in seven of his last eight outings. Harper is now batting 21-for-54 (.389) with six doubles, 16 RBI and 11 runs since coming back.

Harper has shown promise for brief stretches since April, but he hasn't produced this consistently in months. Now he's hitting doubles and triples to left field. It appears he may be finally rounding into form, just in time for the home stretch of the regular season. He just needs to do better at keep his cool with the umpires.

No slowing Turner: Trea Turner had another strong game with two hits and a steal. It was his 19th multi-hit game of the year in his 40th total outing and his batting average now sits at .341. Turner's steal was his 17th of the season, which puts him in second on the Nats, only behind Harper who has 18. 

Ramos ties a career-best: Ramos single gave him 68 RBI on the year, which ties the career-high he set last season. It was Ramos' first game back after sitting out two with Jose Lobaton behind the dish in his place. Ramos' RBI was his first in a span of eight games and an encouraging sign for The Buffalo, who has struggled of late. Before the single, he was 0-for his last 13 going back to Aug. 20, with just one walk during that span. Since Aug. 9, Ramos' batting average has dropped double digits from .337 all the way to .312. Perhaps the two days off and Saturday's RBI can help get him going.

Up next: The Nats and Rockies play the finale of this series and their head-to-head matchups this season. First pitch is at 1:35 p.m. with right-hander Chad Bettis (10-7, 5.29) going for Colorado. The Nationals have yet to name their starter.

[RELATED: Dusty talks about slapping Turner's butt, things get weird]

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