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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."

By Adam Kilgore  | October 1, 2010; 7:14 PM ET
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Next: Game 160 discussion thread: Nationals at Mets


I got a case of Orioles-fever.

And the only cure is more cowbell.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | October 1, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

My hope is this report is incorrect. If it is true, then there is very little hope of any different outcome to next year then the past years. If that is the case I will be a true fan and do as the owners do...keep my money in my pocket! I waited 33 years for a team to come back to DC, I didn't realize though that they were coming back with Bob Short as owner! THIS IS BS!!!

Posted by: prknguy | October 1, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

I think we need serious help in the outfield. Willingham is a keeper but we need reliable offense from someone else out there. Anyone else care to comment on this issue?

Posted by: roseglasses | October 1, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Hey prknguy just start rooting for The Fighting Showalter's.

They've got a lot more going for them than the Natinals do.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | October 1, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

In a vacuum, the Nationals' top four in the OF (Willingham, Morgan, Bernadina, Morse) could use some help, first of all through a serious bench upgrade (Harris, Maxwell, Mench - really?).

I'm really not convinced that going after either Crawford (LF) and in particular Werth (RF) would be a good move without corresponding trades involving Willingham or Morgan.

Posted by: BinM | October 1, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

More cowbell - McP, that encapsules your contributions perfectly; No substance, all noise.

Posted by: BinM | October 1, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

i'm tired of watching nyjer play erratic defense and his sub-par leadoff hitting. they can do better, and they should, if they want to keep fans around. a morse/bernie platoon in RF is fine, if werth doesn't work out.

Posted by: DCguy7 | October 1, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

If the Nats cannot afford to upgrade the outfield, why not just be happy with what they have now? Makes sense to me! It is one of the weakest outfields in baseball, but fits the little budget just fine.

Now that we are starting to face reality as the off-season begins, all the talk about "trading" Dunn for a RF is just that--talk. Can you imagine a legit MLB team wanting to stand pat with such an outfield?

Well, maybe the Nats are just lowering expectations (as if they can be lowered) so that they will easily be exceeded.

Posted by: EdDC | October 1, 2010 9:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm really not convinced that going after either Crawford (LF) and in particular Werth (RF) would be a good move without corresponding trades involving Willingham or Morgan.

Posted by: BinM |
You are absolutely correct.

Posted by: djorl | October 2, 2010 1:49 AM | Report abuse

Corresponding trades? Those guys bring little in the way of trade, so why would that hold you up from going after a good OF in FA or via trade? Josh could stay as a regular if he has a good year, or he could compete for a spot in a good OF. Morgan is a 5th OF if that on most clubs. Other clubs are not lusting after Nyjer. Sure, if you can move them, then just go ahead. But that should not alter a strategy that is built on improvement.

If the Nats stand pat on the OF, then that should quiet those fans who think the Nats have been trying but just missing on acquiring talent. They have not been trying. The idea is to run product out there that passes as MLB talent most nights and hope 20,000 fans dribble in. That is good for the Nats' usual top three ranking in profits.

Boswell in yesterday's chat said that the Nats have recently come through, when it is too late, with a three year offer for Dunn at $30 million and maybe would go all the way up to $33 million. Again, not trying.

Posted by: EdDC | October 2, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Keep Michael Morse!

Posted by: motogp46 | October 2, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

This is laughable... basically they are saying that not only did we have a lousy 2010 season (the 5th lousy season in a row), but also there isn't anything to look forward to in the off season, because we are stuck with what we have, so deal with it...

Why would they think Nyjer is going to bounce back? Bounce back to what? He was only ever good when he was a part time player with Pittsburg and his first 200 at bats with the Nats... at the very least, they need to pick up a right handed hitter to platoon with Nyjer because he has NEVER been able to hit lefthanded pitching (around .200 career against lefties)...

And, really, the Riggleman comments on Maxwell are painful... I would say the exact opposite, almost... that spring training 2011 is your last chance to prove yourself with the Nats, so come prepared to do just that... why set the expectation that he can just keep drifting forever and will keep getting chances... I just don't think you can coddle everyone forever... not in professional sports... if something clicks by the end of spring training 2011 with Maxwell, great, maybe he can be the guy that platoons with Nyjer in CF... but, I wouldn't count on that happening...

Bernie looks more like a 4th OF, too... I think Hammer is a question mark coming off of surgery... I think he'll be fine, and I love him, but still he is more like a .275 guys with 20 homer pop on the wrong side of 30... Morse has been money, but I can also see the Nats sticking him at 1st in 2011 after the fail to sign Dunn or bring in any other option at 1st, weakening the OF even more...

And offering Dunn $33 million for 3 years, get real... that would be a significant discount... I'm sure somebody will offer more years and/or money then that... man, I really have been patient, but I just don't see the committment to putting a major league team together here... and yet, I can stop watching... damn, sux being a baseball addict in a market with a team like this...

Posted by: Ghost7 | October 2, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Good point, Ghost. I am addicted to the Nats and MLB too. That's why Lerner will always be successful, whether he tries to put a good product out there or not. Sure, there are several hundred thousand people turned off by lackluster performance. They are gone. But there are still enough suckers like us left to make a last place team very profitable.

Posted by: EdDC | October 2, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

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