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Posted at 3:28 PM ET, 11/19/2010

Leftovers from the general manager meetings

By Adam Kilgore

Before the weekend hits, I wanted to empty out the notebook with a few items leftover from the winter meetings and a few other tidbits. Here goes:

>> Second baseman Danny Espinosa has been hitting well in Puerto Rico, playing for Ponce, the team managed by former Nationals third base coach Pat Listach. He's batting .320/.381/.560 (average/on-base/slugging) and this week he hit for the cycle. General Manager Mike Rizzo said he feel fine entering spring training with Espinosa as the projected starter at second base.

"If spring training started today, from what I saw in September, I would feel pretty comfortable with Danny," Rizzo said. "Defensively, I'm very comfortable with him making the club out of spring training. He's going to have to make some adjustments offensively. He's in the course of doing that right now. I give him a lot of credit for going out and playing winter ball. He's going to play the whole season of winter ball, which is great for his development. But if we can improve the infield of the ballclub in any way, shape or form, we'll do so."

>> I'm not at all stating this as fact, but my opinion based on several conversations is that the Nationals will trade Josh Willingham this offseason. Without Willingham, Michael Morse could receive a greater role in the Nationals outfield. Here's how Rizzo gauged Morse and the chances he could play first base if the Nationals do not sign Adam Dunn:

"I would say Morse had a breakthrough season for us this year," Rizzo said. "He played extremely well in the limited time that he played. He did the most of his opportunity, which is a feather in his cap. Again, I haven't thought much about him as a possibility at first base, although he played it competently the few times he played it this year. He brings some value to us because he can play several different positions fairly well. He's a productive guy for us on the right side. I'm not going to discount the fact that he can't play first or he might not play first. As of right now, we're probably looking at other options before we turn to him as our option."

>> Yuneksy Maya made two impressive starts in the Dominican winter league, allowing one earned run in 10 innings with 12 strikeouts and three walks. But he's been stuck on two starts for a while because of a left hamstring strain. The injury was a minor setback, and Maya will pitch Sunday.

>> The Nationals are very pleased with how their four pitchers -- Sammy Solis, Brad Peacock, Adam Carr and Cole Kimball -- performed in the Arizona Fall League.

Peacock pitched as a reliever, but only because teams cannot send more than one starting pitcher. The Nationals chose Solis, their second-round pick, as their starter because he needed more innings than Peacock. In the spring, Peacock will return to work as a starter.

Solis's numbers -- he went 1-0 with a 3.80 ERA, 12 strikeouts and seven walks in 23 2/3 innings -- don't pop off the page, but the Nationals were happy with how he threw. Working with pitching coordinator Spin Williams, Solis, a lefty, added a cut fastball to his four-pitch repertoire. He'll probably start this season in Class A Hagerstown and will begin in minor league camp.

>> The Tigers were linked strongly to Adam Dunn during the general manager meetings. If they eventually sign Dunn, it would be a good break of sorts for the Nationals. The Tigers have the 19th selection in the 2011 draft, which this year is the first unprotected choice. Since Dunn is a Type A free agent, the Nationals would gain the best possible first-round pick for losing Dunn and a "sandwich" pick in the compensatory round if the Tigers sign him. Under that scenario, the Nationals would have the sixth and 19th pick in the draft.

>> The Scottsdale Scorpions, the Arizona Fall League team for which Nationals prospects compete, clinched a spot in the AFL championship game with a 20-12 record. That means you'll be able to watch Bryce Harper in the title game; MLB Network will air the AFL championship Saturday at 3 p.m.

Nationals outfield prospect Michael Burgess will start, but Harper will play at some point. Harper, following his typical pattern, exceeded expectations in Arizona. In nine games, Harper hit .343/.410/.649 with one home run and 11 strikeouts in 35 at-bats.

By Adam Kilgore  | November 19, 2010; 3:28 PM ET
 
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Next: Nationals add Chris Marrero, two relievers to 40-man roster

Comments

I had hoped that Harper would start and Burgess would DH. I hope Norris starts at cathcer as opposed to DH. Harper got most of those strikeouts on his first 15 ABs with an OBP of about .335. He then straighted out and finish with the quoted OBP. The kid is the real deal.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | November 19, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Here's hoping the Nats let Dunn sign with the Tigers so they can get the 19th and sandwich pick after the 1st round. Then they can sign Carl Crawford and trade for Grienke. Maybe that will shut up all the non-believers and whiners.

Posted by: jmurray019 | November 19, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

In 2010 the Nats won 69 games with Dunn, Willingham and Strasburg. How many games will they win without them? In what year do the Nats get better?

Posted by: cr8oncsu | November 19, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

If the Nats opened up the vault and spent $100 million on Crawford, and THEN went out and traded for Greinke, I'd be a believer.

But what about when thrydon't sign anyone but scrubs and dumpster dive for pitchers, will you become a non-believer?

Posted by: comish4lif | November 19, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

To round out AK's observation about the lucky break that the Nationals would get if the Tigers sign Dunn - he mentions that would give the Nationals the 6th and 19th picks in the first round. The 6th pick they received for losing 93 games, so they get that regardless. The supplemental first round pick they will receive will be the #34 overall pick, because the supplemental picks are awarded in order of team finish, first for Type A free agents and then for Type B. Since the Nationals are the worst team with a Type A free agent this year, they'd be first in line (there are three teams receiving compensatory first round picks for failing to sign their first round selection).

Bottom line - if Dunn walks to the Tigers, the Nationals would have the #6, #19 and #34 selection in the 2011 draft. This scenario would make Rizzo smile.

Posted by: JCCfromDC | November 19, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

So, if any of the clubs holding the first 18 picks take him, say the O's, its just the 34th pick the Nats garner for losing Dunn? That cannot make Rizzo smile very much.

I want no part of Crawford. Love the player, hate the price.

Posted by: dfh21 | November 19, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Riggleman "hasn't thought much about him (Morse) as a possibility at 1B..."

No kidding. That would be out-of-the-box thinking, something Riggo is hopelessly bad at.

Unless it's by-the-book, been done the same way for 100 years, Riggleman is clueless. Managing losers, by-the-book, is what he does best.

Posted by: howjensen | November 19, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

To be fair, it is no big surprise that no one seriously looked at Morse as a 1B when he really has not been placed in the role very often at all and he has not hit enough to merit a move there. 1B's have to hit for power. Morse, up until 2010, did not show very much.

Posted by: dfh21 | November 19, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

@dfh - if a bottom 15 team takes Dunn, the Nats get a sandwich pick (#34) and the signing team' s second rounder.

Posted by: comish4lif | November 19, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

I think the team will be looking for a position for Morse, and if we can get anything of value for Willingham I think Morse could put up similar numbers; while I don't think Pena will come near Dunn, Morse can offset Willingham

Posted by: SCNatsFan | November 19, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

dfh21 sez: "To be fair, it is no big surprise that no one seriously looked at Morse as a 1B when he really has not been placed in the role very often at all and he has not hit enough to merit a move there. 1B's have to hit for power. Morse, up until 2010, did not show very much."
-----------------------------
Morse hit 15 home runs in half as many at bats as Dunn. He also hit, what? .280 something? C'mon, who cares what he did before last year? You can only go on what he has done lately. Give him a shot, and if it works out great, if not, then move on. Bu t don't get Carlos Pena for a lot fo money when he is hitting .196. Thats just stupid. Its ok to be cheap, but not stupid, got it? Personally, I would prefer Dunn at 1st and Morse in RF, with Morse backing up Dunn. But if Dunn goes, Morse is CLEARLY the best choice. The guy was an All-American shortstop in his early days. Sheez, Louise. No, you're right, Morse hit for average AND power and is a good fielder. You're right, we don't want HIM playing. Riggleman is dumb as a mule, but Rizzo I would hope for more out of. However, I like the fact he is willing to trade Willingham before he gets injured next July 15th.

Posted by: shred11 | November 19, 2010 11:49 PM | Report abuse

I don't get the "Morse can replace Willingham" comments. We have them both on the team now and they should both be starting. If we lose Willingham it better be for a comparable outside fielder/bat...not one that's already on the team.

Posted by: g3jr | November 20, 2010 7:18 AM | Report abuse

". . . But if we can improve the infield of the ballclub in any way, shape or form, we'll do so."

OMG, Rizzo's at it again, making claims he has not intention of fulfilling. Meanwhile, having Desmond and Espinosa up the middle seems meet all of his (AAA) expectations.

Then we have the "greatest center fielder in all of baseball" (Rizzo's own evaluation) ready to go for another fun year. Bring on 2011! Can't wait.

Posted by: JohnRDC | November 20, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

So is that 3 PM in Phoenix (5 here), or 3 PM here, 1:00 MST?

Posted by: RedheadedCubFan | November 20, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Here's hoping the Nats let Dunn sign with the Tigers so they can get the 19th and sandwich pick after the 1st round. Then they can sign Carl Crawford and trade for Grienke. Maybe that will shut up all the non-believers and whiners. Posted by: jmurray019 | November 19, 2010 4:49 PM |

Gosh, you are right, Mr. Murray. That kind of thing would restore some faith that has been lost over the years. If that happened, it would start a new era. And when the new era is started, I would like to hear a new Plan--what direction is the club going? I want to know what changed, when it changed, and is it all going to be a permanent new direction? I want the growing commitment of resources to the Nats spelled out--not specifically (I know we are not entitled to that) but generally. Will the resource commitment to winning be there? I want to know how the organization pulled together to get Crawford and Grienke, and I would especially like to hear that this is just the start of even greater things to come. After all this happens, I won't be a negative whiner any more, that's for sure! The Nats may not become winners right away under this changed philosophy, but if I could get these new players and hear all about this new ownership commitment, I definitely would be deeply appreciative and most patient, knowing that great days for Nats lie ahead!

Posted by: EdDC | November 20, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

I also would beg all the season ticket groups I bailed from in recent years if they would please consider taking me back, please?

Posted by: EdDC | November 20, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

>I like the fact he is willing to trade Willingham before he gets injured next July 15th.

Posted by: shred11

Morse has some big holes in his swing, if you work him up and in, and in, he's almost helpless because he has trouble getting his arms extended. The league's in the process of catching up with him. He had a lot of strikeouts toward the end of the season. There's a reason he hasn't gotten 600 ABs because he'll get exposed. That's where a lot of the fools gold comes in because part-time players who do fairly well, and are doing well because they're not grinding it out night after night, getting tired and injured and still having to produce. That's when their flaws come out.

Posted by: Brue | November 20, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

The statement that 1B have to hit for power is becoming a myth. The old guideline of "power at the corners" falls further into the rear-view mirror every season. Look at the current rosters of the 30 MLB teams & tell me where the power comes from - In a number of cases, it isn't always 1B.

What every team hopes for is to have four positions producing 20+HR/80+RBI per year, but it doesn't really matter where they play.

Posted by: BinM | November 20, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

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