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Eight Nationals become free agents -- most of them unlikely to return

Now that the Fall Classic is finished and the Kansas City Royals are World Series champions, there are eight Washington Nationals who are officially free agents:

Ian Desmond, SS

Doug Fister, RHP

Casey Janssen, RHP

Nate McLouth, OF

Denard Span, OF

Matt Thornton, LHP

Dan Uggla, IF

Jordan Zimmermann, RHP

While nothing is guaranteed, as the 2015 season wound down, the words and actions of Desmond, Zimmermann, and Span seemed to imply that their time in D.C. is done.

Following an abysmal season in which he was demoted to the bullpen and replaced by rookie Joe Ross, Fister is unlikely to return, unless he’s willing to take a substantial pay cut from the $11.4 million he earned last season. And who knows if the Nationals would even be willing to make him such an offer.

Based on his performance, Uggla's first season with Washington was probably his last. The 35-year-old posted an anemic slash line of .183/.298/.300, and struck out 40 times in 120 at-bats. Chances are the Nats will look elsewhere for infield depth.

Janssen and McLouth became free agents on Monday when the team declined to pick their options, so they won’t be back next season either.

One player who might be back in a Nats uniform next season is Thornton. The 39-year-old lefty was one of the team’s few bright spots out of the bullpen, posting a 1.07 WHIP in 60 appearances, and generally justifying his $3.5 million salary.

Based on the current collective bargaining agreement, a team is allowed to make a qualifying offer (one year, $15.8 million, based on the average of the 125 highest MLB salaries) to any of its departing free agents. If a player accepts the offer, which nobody in MLB has done since the concept was introduced in 2012, he remains with his old team. If the player declines the offer and signs with another team, his former team receives a compensatory draft pick that typically falls at the end of the first round.

Given how likely Zimmermann, Desmond, and Span are to sign with other teams, the Nats are expected to extend qualifying offers to all three so that they don’t come up empty-handed.