After a strong bounce-back season in Baltimore, Nate McLouth figured to sign with a club this winter that would offer him the chance to win an everyday job.

The Nationals, of course, had no such opportunity with Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Denard Span all entrenched in the outfield. But they managed to convince McLouth to sign a two-year, $11.75 million contract by showing him the likelihood he’ll still get significant playing time off the bench.

In evaluating his team over the last three seasons, general manager Mike Rizzo realized the Nationals’ fourth outfielder made roughly 80 starts per year due to injuries to starters. Wanting to be better-equipped to deal with the inevitable this time, he made it a priority to sign a player of McLouth’s caliber.

“You’ve got a guy — not talking about your main three outfielders — that is getting 380-to-425 at-bats in a season,” Rizzo said Monday at the Winter Meetings. “And we felt that it was a good time to really invest in a player that we felt … could really help us off the bench.”

Looking back at the last three seasons, it’s easy to understand Rizzo’s perspective on the matter.

— The Nationals entered 2011 with a projected outfield of Michael Morse, Rick Ankiel and Werth. But when Adam LaRoche was lost to major shoulder surgery, Morse shifted to first base. That created a hole in left field, where Laynce Nix and Roger Bernadina each wound up starting 71 games.

— Two significant injuries foiled the Nationals’ original outfield plans in 2012: Morse missed more than two months with a torn lat muscle, Werth missed three months with a broken wrist. The domino effect: Bernadina, Tyler Moore, Steve Lombardozzi and Xavier Nady started a combined 130 games in the outfield.