Depending on status of Desmond, Zimmermann, others, quiet offseason could be key for Nationals



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WASHINGTON — Nationals starting pitchers Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister aren't paying attention to speculation about whether they'll be traded before next season, the last of their current contracts.

Shortstop Ian Desmond also could be bound for free agency a year from now — or sent to another team before that — and acknowledges he's well aware he could end up leaving the franchise that drafted him out of high school in 2004.

"I've got guys that I consider 'Dad' in this organization. I've got guys that are just like my brothers," Desmond said Saturday at the club's fan festival. "I was 18 when I signed; I had like four armpit hairs. Now I've got three kids."

Asked if he found recent trade talk jarring, Desmond replied: "'Jarring'? Look, this isn't my first day on the job. I understand what's going on. ... It's part of the business. The Nationals didn't get here by sitting still."

What has been a relatively quiet offseason for Washington could become drastically different in the coming months, depending on what happens with a group of key players who aren't signed beyond 2015.

In addition to Desmond (the team's top returning player in homers, 24, and RBIs, 91), Zimmermann (14-5, 2.66 ERA, no-hitter in the regular-season finale) and Fister (club-high 16 wins, rotation-leading 2.41 ERA), that category includes setup man Tyler Clippard and leadoff hitter Denard Span.

General manager Mike Rizzo might trade one or more.

Or he could try as much as possible to keep together a club that won the NL East title two of the past three seasons.

"If it's a fair value (offer), like I have said all along, I would gladly sign," said Zimmermann, who added that he doesn't want contract negotiations to continue during the season. "But at the end of the day, it's got to be something that's fair. And if it's not, then I'll be moving on."

Fister, traded from Detroit to Washington last offseason, is avoiding word of what could happen now.

"I want to be taken by surprise, because I want to expect that I'm going to be back here next year," he said.

The only deal that came together last week for Rizzo was sending left-hander Ross Detwiler to Texas for two minor league prospects.

"We had a lot of trade ideas and we just haven't found the right time, place or situation," the GM said. "We feel that we like the team we have, but we certainly see the room for improvement."

He wouldn't comment on negotiations for Desmond, Zimmermann or Fister.

"We've got a lot of options," Rizzo said. "We can go a lot of different ways. We can stand pat and go with a team that we think is a very, very competitive ballclub. We can make a few tweaks here and there."


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