The Nationals are in a similar bind as the Marlins, trying to compete with bigger-payroll, bigger-market franchises like the Mets, Phillies and Braves. The difference is they'll be opening the 2008 season in a new stadium, which will guarantee a boost in attendance (meaning, cash) and buzz.
The fact that the Nats climbed out of last place for the first time since migrating to D.C. in 2005 is a selling point of the team's overall progress.
Starting pitching: The 4.58 ERA, 10th in the NL, wasn't all that bad for a team that was 16 games under .500. In fact, another front-line starter could turn the Nats into a credible pitching entity.
Leadoff hitter: Felipe Lopez, who led off in 104 games, had a .308 on-base percentage.
Run production: The 673 runs were the fewest in the majors, as were the 123 home runs. Obviously, the need for offense is real, if not critical. Nick Johnson's projected return in '08 might help, although Dmitri Young is coming off a productive season.
Torii Hunter is friends with Dmitri Young, but he's still a long shot to sign with the Nationals. Livan Hernandez might make sense, and Tom Glavine has been mentioned as a possibility if he doesn't end up back in Atlanta.
Ross Detwiler, a 21-year-old left-hander, was the No. 6 pick in last year's amateur draft. He could make a cameo appearance in 2008.
The Nationals could impact the market if they decide to trade Cordero. It might bring them enough in return to think about climbing to .500 status in a year or two.
Bob Klapisch is a sports columnist for The Record (N.J.) and a regular contributor to ESPN.com.