Nationals need a coup to prove they mean business.

The Washington Nationals have a lot of questions marks involving personnel this offseason including who to bring back and what players to pursue in free agency or through a trade. Forget the budget for the Lerner’s and let’s get serious.

If the Nationals want to be competitive in 2012, they have to get aggressive this offseason. The time is now to start filling the rest of the holes in the roster or the franchise will be not be successful as they expect when Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper come back. They need a coup de gras in free agency.

Mark Zuckerman has a great breakdown of the Nationals payroll and projects just $47 million tied up for the 2011 season, $17 million under the 2010 Opening Day payroll. The team first needs to tie up a big bat, which I expect them to do by bringing back Adam Dunn. Even then, the team would have $22 million just to get up to the league median.

The franchise hasn’t been willing to shell out big contracts unless re-signing in house, but Mike Rizzo needs to be aggressive. This off-season, the Nationals need to contend for elite players, and that means competing with the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox.

That means going after a player like Cliff Lee.

I’ll be upfront, this kind of signing would absolutely break the bank with possible market value for the Ranger ace at 5-years, $125 million, but if the Nationals want to deliver on their promise of making this team a contender they have to take risks. Lee has been downright ridiculous this postseason making him the most desirable free agent in baseball this offseason. The Nats need to make the move. They need to get Cliff Lee.

Is it wishful thinking that the Nationals could land such a coveted player? Well, obviously, but what’s the problem with that? What’s the problem with hoping the front office is willing to compete in the open market?

Even if the team can’t land Lee, they have to make moves to improve the rotation. Tampa Bay’s Matt Garza and Kansas City’s Zach Greinke are two other possibilities that would make sense as well. Any way you write the script, it has to end with the Nationals taking chances in the market. They have to show that if they want to be competitive on the field, they have to be competitive in signing players.


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