The Winter Meetings started with so much promise for Nationals fans.

Their team was considered the leading contender to pry prized lefty Chris Sale away from the White Sox in a blockbuster trade. Their team was also considered the favorite to land former MVP Andrew McCutchen in a deal with the Pirates, a move that would allow budding superstar Trea Turner to shift from center field back to his natural position at shortstop.

Either of those trades had the potential to push the Nationals over the top in 2017 (nobody expected both to happen, of course). After all, the club had won 95 games in 2016, returned starters at seven of eight positions — including 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper and 2016 NL MVP runner-up Daniel Murphy — and all five of their primary starting pitchers, including ace Max Scherzer, who won his second Cy Young award in 2016. The bullpen needed a bit of back-end work, sure, but there were plenty of options on the market, via free agency or trade.

And the Cubs proved this October that past postseason failures were no barrier to winning a World Series. If a franchise that hadn’t won a title in 108 years could break such an epic drought, surely the Nationals could shake off a couple disappointing playoff series. There was no reason for Nationals fans to be anything but optimistic about not just the 2017 season, but years beyond.

And then, the Winter Meetings started.