WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have won the National League East in three of the last five seasons, with a title in the even numbered years of 2012, 2014 and 2016.
So obviously Washington and general manager Mike Rizzo hopes those trends do not continue this season under Baker, getting ready for his second season in the nation's capital. Baker enters the season in the last of a two-year contract he signed with the Nationals.
Among the new faces in the everyday lineup are center fielder Adam Eaton and catcher Matt Wieters. In addition, Trea Turner, who played mostly center field as a rookie last year, will start at shortstop after he hit .342 with 33 steals in 73 games last season.
Eaton was acquired during the winter meetings -- held about 10 miles south of Nationals Park -- in December as the Nationals sent young pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning to the Chicago White for the veteran outfielder.
The trade meant the loss of Giolito and Lopez, who both made their major league debuts in 2016.
"Adam is a real good (addition) for us," Rizzo said during spring training in West Palm Beach, Florida. "He grinds out at-bats. He plays a great center field. He brings a lot of dynamics to the ballclub. He gives us another quality at-bat in the lineup. He will be a great grinder at the plate."
Wieters was signed as a free agent in February after he spent all of his big league career just north of Washington with the Baltimore Orioles. He is a switch-hitter who has taken a hit from the sabermetrics folks due to poor pitch-framing.
"He was several weeks behind when he came here," Rizzo said. "There is a big learning curve for him. He is a fine catcher who calls a great game. He makes our lineup stronger and longer. He will be one of the leaders in the clubhouse. He is a great addition to the ballclub."
Harper dropped to .243 with 24 homers last year after he was the Most Valuable Player in 2015 when he hit .330 with 42 homers.
Werth hit .244 with 28 doubles and 21 homers last year. Scherzer was the Cy Young Award winner as he went 20-7 with a 2.96 ERA while Strasburg, who will make the Opening Day start Monday against the Miami Marlins, was 15-4 with 3.60 ERA in 24 starts in 2016.
Scherzer came to camp with a fracture on his right finger but pitched five scoreless innings on March 27 against the New York Mets. "I am on pace to start the season," Scherzer said. "Our core is intact. We are always going to be fighting in September."
First baseman Ryan Zimmerman looks to bounce back after hitting .218 with 15 homers in 115 games last season. "Zim has been working on his approach and his mechanics," Rizzo said. "He likes where his stroke is. He will be ready when the bell rings."
The big question mark is who will be the closer for the Nationals.
But the Colorado native signed a four-year deal with the San Francisco Giants, and the Nationals also lost out on free agent Kenley Jansen -- who stayed with the Dodgers. "We made competitive offers to both," Rizzo said.