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Nationals 'keeping options open' at first base, with Adam Dunn

By Adam Kilgore

As the offseason grinds along, one of the pressing questions remains what the Nationals will do with free agent first baseman Adam Dunn, and how they'll replace him at first base if/when he chooses to sign elsewhere. While it's still early, the Nationals have started planning how they'll proceed.

"We've talked internally about what our options are," General Manager Mike Rizzo said. "We've mapped out our strategy on players that we're going to be aggressive and go after. We're starting the implementing of the process.

"We're keeping all of our options open. Adam, he's opted to include himself in the free agent market. We certainly have to look at not only Adam, but other avenues also."

The Nationals' most likely alternative to Dunn appears to be free agent Carlos Pena, although the Nationals could choose a number of different strategies to replace, including upgrading their outfield and moving either Michael Morse or Josh Willingham to first.

Inside the Nationals clubhouse, there has been a strong push for the Nationals to simply resign Dunn. The most outspoken proponent of keeping Dunn has been Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals' best player. Zimmerman has taken every opportunity to campaign for Dunn's return.

Rizzo, at the very least, is listening to his franchise third baseman. Here are Rizzo's thoughts on Zimmerman expressing his opinion:

"Ryan is an integral part of the team. He's probably the most recognizable face of the ballclub. He certainly has a right to voice his opinions. I've talked to him in the past about player and personnel moves, makeup on players, how the clubhouse is built and that type of thing. His input, his opinion, is important to me.

"But you certainly can't make franchise-changing decisions on the opinion of one player. But like I said, Ryan is not just an ordinary player to us. I've listened to, I've taken his opinions in the past. When he talks, the city of Washington, D.C. listens. And they should, because he's our best player and one our most important athletes in the city."

By Adam Kilgore  | November 16, 2010; 7:46 PM ET
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>"But you certainly can't make franchise-changing decisions on the opinion of one player.

Pants showing the ego of a fly.

Posted by: Brue | November 16, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Certainly, Re-signing Dunn is the fans' (& Zimmerman's) first preference. If circumstance works to different ends, either LaRoche, D.Lee, or Loney wouldn't be bad additions at 1B (Pena, on the other hand would be a huge mistake, imo).

Internally, moving Morse to 1B & signing a LH-hitting RF with power could work as well. Bernadina & Morgan can wrestle for CF/4th OF duties in spring training.

Posted by: BinM | November 16, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Signing Crawford will start a chain of dominoes with the ultimate outcome being Willingham will be moved to first. Not a bad outcome, imo.

Posted by: driley | November 17, 2010 7:09 AM | Report abuse

Rizzo is clearly concerned about Zimmerman's reaction to Dunn's departure, even as he knows Dunn might be gone.

It will be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next couple of years, especially if Dunn leaves and Zimmerman's offensive production declines.

Posted by: Meridian1 | November 17, 2010 7:41 AM | Report abuse

Rizzo will want to speak privately with Ian Desmond, the newly-designated "face of the franchise," about whether to sign Dunn. I suspect Rizzo knows that Zimmerman will be gone as soon as he can get out from this circus, and Desmond as spokesman and team leader is a better fit for the hapless Nats.

Posted by: JohnRDC | November 17, 2010 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Understandable that Zimmerman wants Dunn in the lineup, and is lobbying the Nats to sign him. So long as there is a reasonable offer, Zimm should also be lobbying Dunn to sign with the Nats.

Posted by: KenNat | November 17, 2010 8:07 AM | Report abuse

Boy, looking forward to that Carlos Pena-signing press conference.

"Yeah, he hit under .200 last year, and was benched now and again because he couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat, but, boy, he sure can FIELD!"

Posted by: Gunga2009 | November 17, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

"But like I said, Ryan is not just an ordinary player to us. I've listened to, I've taken his opinions in the past. When he talks, the city of Washington, D.C. listens. And they should, because he's our best player and one our most important athletes in the city."

Rizzo you have got to be kidding me, right? Which "Sports Talker" thinks that? I bet you can walk down about any street in the DC Metro and more then 75% of the people wouldn't even know who RZ is. Unfortunatly if one is not associated with the dysfunctional B&G, or the semi- criminal football league they might as well be playing on the moon.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | November 17, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Why all this negativity about Carlos Pena? He outhit Willie Harris by 13 points last year. And it's not as if Pena is an older guy with declining skills either. He is the same age as Willie Harris. Affordable too! Pena will be a fine Nat and fit right in. Are you going to listen to some kid playing 3B or to Nats' management?

Posted by: EdDC | November 17, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Zimmerman is not yet Derek Jeter. He doesn't have any championship rings or .300 plus seasons to bring to the table. Right now he is a solid player on a still very average team.

With all due respect to Ryan, he really doesn't understand what it takes to win at the major league level.

Dunn's home run totals are nice stats and entertaining for the crowd, but the Nationals need to get out from under the label of being a poor fielding team.

Dunn is one of the culprits in that equation.

A first baseman that has gold glove talent in the field who can hit 22-25 home runs is worth more than Dunn who can hit 35 but gives up runs in the field that go against his power numbers.

The Giants just won the World Series without a guy hitting 40 home runs. They won on pitching and defense.

That is the model the Nationals need to emulate long-term.

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | November 17, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

@RoyHobbs4: Yes, the Giants won the WS with pitching and defense - but it wasn't until midseason with the addition of Buster Posey to the lineup that they actually started winning games. The A's pitching and defense let the AL in runs allowed (#3 in MLB) ... and yet they still didn't have a winning record. You still have to score runs to win games. Seattle's entire offseason push was to build up their pitching and defense - they had Felix Hernandez AND Cliff Lee! - but they lost more games than the Nats because they couldn't hit a lick.

Here's a thought: pitching, strong defense especially up the middle - Pudge/Ramos behind the plate, Desi/Espy/Gonzalez in the middle IF, Bernadina (or Morgan if he rebounds) in CF - AND a thumper or two in the corner OF and at 1b for some runs.

A lineup of Justin Maxwells can run and play defense all summer long, but even if Strasburg comes back better than ever he'd be a .500 pitcher dealing in front of that team.

Posted by: JCCfromDC | November 17, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Just for the sake of fairness...

Carlos Pena Batting Stats Years '07 to 2010

G - 566 PA - 2371 AB - 1935
R - 330 H - 461 2B - 96
HR - 144 RBI - 407
BB - 373 SO - 629
BA - .238 OBP - .368 SLG - .516
OPS - .884 OPS+ - 134

Adam Dunn Batting Stats Years '07 to 2010

G - 627 PA - 2599 AB - 2143
R - 346 H - 551 2B - 115
HR - 156 RBI - 414
BB - 416 SO - 705
BA - .257 OBP - .382 SLG - .533
OPS - .915 OPS+ - 137

Posted by: Kev29 | November 17, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Maybe at age 33, Pena can recapture the production of his prime years?

Posted by: EdDC | November 17, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

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