The Nationals may have lost Jayson Werth, but they have The Savior Bryce Harper arriving just in time, plus Ryan Zimmerman coming off the DL. The team is off to a great start which is sure to have fans happy after years of mediocrity. However, that success will raise a very heated debate down the line as they try to balance winning with ensuring the that success continues well into the future.

At the center of that dilemma is Stephen Strasburg, i.e. their Other Savior, who has begun fulfilling his immense promise. He has a 1.66 ERA, a WHIP well below 1, and strikes out one guy per inning, among many other stats. However, we’ve all heard of the 160 inning limit that will be placed on him this season. Even though Nats GM Mike Rizzo says that number is a media invention, it’s still something for management to keep an eye on.

Why would they monitor him so closely, given that Rizzo denies an innings cap? Well, Strasburg did spend most of 2011 recovering from Tommy John surgery and they went through similar thing with Jordan Zimmermann. Limiting the amount of innings or pitches or a young hurler throws is a relatively new strategy to preserve prized arms. The Rays are a prime example of this strategy, with Matt Moore being a great example. Careful progression can pay huge dividends in the future.

That would be all well and fine for the Nats if they were floating near the bottom of the NL East, but instead they’re at the top. So what do they do with Strasburg? If they feel he’s over-extending himself, they may decide to shut him down to preserve him for the future. The fans may not like it, but it would be prudent to ensure he continued success, instead of just a few years. On the other hand, if he continues his current form, then why not keep sending him out there? If there are no signs of injury, then it would be foolish to be overly conservative. In the end, the Nationals will ride this wave as long as they can and possibly revisit the Strasburg issue down the road, when they decide if they’re in win now or win later mode.