The Nationals' decision to part ways with Dusty Baker last week after back-to-back NL East titles made sense only with a viable follow-up plan in place.

None was evident at the time, but the Yankees offered up the best possible alternative Thursday in cutting Joe Girardi loose. So just how badly do the Nationals' owners want to break their pattern of frustrating near-misses?

Assuming Girardi doesn't want to simply take a year off and decompress after a decade of dealing with everything that is baseball in the Bronx, neither he nor the team is likely to find a better fit this offseason.

The Nationals are turn-key pennant contenders, winners of 192 games over the last two regular seasons. They bring back a well-established core for 2018 in Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon, Gio Gonzalez, Matt Wieters, Sean Doolittle and a healthy Adam Eaton.

While the trend around the game, even among big-money teams like the Dodgers and Red Sox, is to give less-established managers a shot at managing high-end rosters right out of the gate, Washington's is a roster that calls out for a veteran hand like Girardi's.