Nationals outfield likely to return intact
The Nationals outfield is not quite an obvious strength, but it's not necessarily a glaring weakness, either. Some combination of Michael Morse, Josh Willingham, Nyjer Morgan and Roger Bernadina played the majority of games there this season, and it seems likely the same foursome will return next season, Manager Jim Riggleman said.
Even if the Nationals made upgrading their outfield a priority, this would be a difficult offseason to do so. After Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford, the quality of outfielders available in free agency drops significantly.
"I think the most likely scenario is that we'll have pretty much the same group," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "If Mike [Rizzo] acquires an outfielder that has superior numbers to these guys, then these guys will be put on the back burner. I don't anticipate that happening. People aren't just giving away those kind of guys. The free agent market for outfielders is relatively thin."
The Nationals control left fielder Josh Willingham, who is eligible for his final year of arbitration, for the 2011 season. Rizzo has said he is committed to Nyjer Morgan in center field, who he believes will bounce back from a rocky season to his career norms next season. Rizzo said he would be content to let Bernadina and Morse share right field. This year, they combined to hit .265/.323/.433 in 665 at-bats with 24 home runs.
Bernadina, sitting for his second straight game, is out only because left-hander Pat Misch is starting for the Mets. His absence allows the Nationals one more look at Justin Maxwell for a night.
Maxwell, who turns in 27 in November, has been unable this season to work his way into next year's outfield picture. His inability to consistently make contact continues to doom him. Riggleman said Maxwell has too much potential to give up on.
"Hopefully, it all comes together and he has a good spring for us and he's part of the ball club next year," Riggleman said. "There's no reason to give up on him. I think it's all going to click. There's no last-chance situation. I wouldn't put that on him. I'm just hoping he does use the opportunities on the field, as sparing as they've been, to show us that he's the real deal."
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