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Posted at 5:51 PM ET, 12/ 6/2010

The Nationals' first base options and how it affects Josh Willingham

By Adam Kilgore

The Nationals have yet to make a final decision on the course of action for filling their first base position, and whatever solution they arrive could dictate the future of left fielder Josh Willingham.

The Nationals' most likely solution to replacing Adam Dunn remains signing either Carlos Pena or Adam LaRoche, both of whom are free agents. In that case, the Nationals would add a sufficient home run threat and feel free to trade Willingham. The Nationals have made Willingham available, and he's drawn considerable interest. "His name gets thrown around a lot," one Nationals source said.

But the Nationals will not part with Willingham easily. When healthy, Willingham is a genuine middle-of-the-order threat. Willingham hit .281/.411/.502 (average/on-base/slugging) with 15 home runs before the all-star break last season, before knee soreness derailed his production and he eventually missed the final six weeks of the season after undergoing knee surgery.

"I guess with the addition of an outfielder [Jayson Werth], it would make another outfielder a little bit more comfortable to move, if you get the right deal," General Manager Mike Rizzo said. "But Josh Willingham is not just any outfielder. He's a good, productive player, and a guy that we're going to have to get the right deal in return to move him."

Again, the belief in baseball is that Willingham will most likely be traded. But if the Nationals don't end up finding a match, it could affect their outlook at first base. Rizzo had previously decided against using an internal candidate to fill the first base vacancy, but he may be flexible.

The Nationals, one team source said, have internally discussed using Michael Morse and a lesser left-handed free agent first baseman in a platoon at first base. This approach would also free up more money to dedicate toward help in the starting rotation or the bullpen.

UPDATE, 8:06: A source indicated that the Red Sox are among the teams that have inquired about Willingham.

By Adam Kilgore  | December 6, 2010; 5:51 PM ET
 
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Comments

I must be a genius. I was just thinking this morning that Pena in a platoon would be the way to go. Of course, the money always matters, and if they have to drastically overpay for Pena, I'll be a bit concerned.

Posted by: FriendofalltheWorld | December 6, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Mayhap it will be a platoon of Lars Anderson and Michael Morse? Newly minted prospect gets slowly introduced to major league pitching and using Morse in left field and first base after trading Willingham?

Who knows?

Posted by: periculum | December 6, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Again, the belief in baseball is that Willingham will most likely be traded. But if the Nationals don't end up finding a match, it could affect their outlook at first base.

Did anyone believe that the Nats would get Werth? Did anyone even say they were going after him?

Posted by: alex35332 | December 6, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Nick Johnson would be a good gamble. His OPS is consistently outstanding when he's not hurt. Of course, he's been hurt often, but even a partial season of his OPS and defense with Morse filling in for him would be better than the 2010 Pena or any version of Adam LaRoche.

Posted by: Snopes1 | December 6, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

peric: And who prey tell, would the Nationals surrender to the RedSox for Lars Anderson, and why? KC has just as interesting a player in Kila Ka'aihue.

Both players are 'blocked' - Anderson by Gonzalez/Youkilis in Boston, Ka'aihue by Butler in KC. Both teams show some weakness at CA, but BOS would be willing to take on salary; KC, not so much.

I'd lean toward Rizzo looking for ML-proven talent at 1B, which is why he is avoiding linking either Morse or Willingham to the vacant position. Hence, Pena (declining offense & defence, and brittle to boot, but a Bora$ client), or LaRoche (steady to the point of near-boredom, but a good choice imo) as the probable candidates. But who knows, Rizzo could jump 'outside the box' again & give the fans another pre-holiday suprise.

That's part of what makes the "Hot-Stove" so interesting.

Posted by: BinM | December 6, 2010 7:04 PM | Report abuse

@BinM,

"peric: And who prey tell, would the Nationals surrender to the RedSox for Lars Anderson, and why? KC has just as interesting a player in Kila Ka'aihue."

The BoSox might just part with him for Willingham and Slaten plus a young reliever. They in turn would have to throw in a pitcher I'd expect.

Seems like the Nats have made signing Crawford plus Gonzalez very uncomfortable for Boston by signing Werth to 7 years and 126 million. To that I say good!

Posted by: periculum | December 6, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

@BinM, they might even accept Marerro instead of another pitcher. They have do something with Chris Marerro. He probably fields worst than Dunn!? He needs an American team and Boston seems like a good one for the kid.

Posted by: periculum | December 6, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

@Snopes1: Been there, suffered through far too many of those injuries. "Slick" Johnson is probably the most snake-bitten, injury-prone player available on the FA market. Offer him a contract, and you run the risk that he'll tear a wrist tendon signing it.

No, thank you.

Posted by: BinM | December 6, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

@Snopes1: Been there, suffered through far too many of those injuries. "Slick" Johnson is probably the most snake-bitten, injury-prone player available on the FA market. Offer him a contract, and you run the risk that he'll tear a wrist tendon signing it.

No, thank you.

Posted by: BinM | December 6, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

@BinM,

I still firmly believe their first priority is to rebuilding through the draft and developing younger players. I think if Boston is unwilling to take a chance with their top (and left handed hitting) 22 year old prospect it behooves the Nats to swoop in.

Perhaps they sign Crawford to boot?

Clearly pitcher is the first priority and a trade with TB. But I suspect they will have to part with 2 pitchers, a catcher and Ian Desmond to get that deal. I don't think they will get JZimmnn without also throwing in Jimmy Shields.

They still need to start playing younger (but trusted top notch talent prospects and "veterans") position players. The trend which cause the Nationals to move to an infield featuring Zimmerman, Desmond, and Espinosa which is very young and talented should continue.

They still have 3 top picks before the second round (having lost their second rounder). If they are lucky enough to sign Crawford they will lose their 3rd rounder as well. I assume if they are lucky enough to sign Lee they will lose yet another.

Posted by: periculum | December 6, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Didn't Boston just ship three of their top 6 prospects to San Diego?
Methnks they are done dealing their top MiLB talent.

Posted by: Sunderland | December 6, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Snopes1; Good lookin out but i have to agree with BinM, I love Nick but Dude is snake bitten and i think he would be just right but he can't stay healthy.

Posted by: dargregmag | December 6, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Anyone know the availability of Derek Lee(Braves) i think he would be perfect for this team on the field and in the clubhouse.

Posted by: dargregmag | December 6, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

dargreg - D Lee is indeed a free agent. FYI, he is ranked as a Type A free agent.

Posted by: Sunderland | December 6, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

D Lee bats RH, so I think he is a long shot.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 6, 2010 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Agreed there dfh, and his type A status would cost more than LaRoche (unranked) and Pena (type B).

Posted by: Sunderland | December 6, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Why couldn't Harper play 1st? Bat him 3rd or 4th so he can see some quality pitches.

Posted by: okelley2nd | December 6, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Snopes1, I'm with you on NJ, especially with Morse as backup or platoon (altho if Nick can stay healthy -- I know: Ha ha -- it wouldn't be needed).

But I'd agree the Nats can't put all their eggs in that basket. Got to try to get LaRoche.

Still, and I know it's mostly sentiment, I'd love see NJ back here.

Posted by: nats24 | December 7, 2010 1:16 AM | Report abuse

Just found that "123 Get Samples" is promoting a wide variety of major brands by providing free samples. You’ll have to fill in your zip code to see if you can qualify to receive them. You can get all samples from one place. I think it is available for most of the zip codes and it worked for me.

Posted by: dorisguy | December 7, 2010 3:59 AM | Report abuse

I hope they trade Willingham. I like him and would like for him to get away from this loser organization. He will be a great addition to any team with a chance to win more than 60 games. Get him away from Uncle Wiggly and Rizzo.

Posted by: bamabug | December 7, 2010 7:22 AM | Report abuse

@okelley2nd -- Harper has a cannon for an arm. His talent would be wasted at 1st. Better to move Werth to CF, or possibly play Harper there. Does anyone know if Harper has the speed/range to handle CF?

Posted by: DavidandDonald1 | December 7, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

See how much more interesting life is when you have more than one established major league outfielder?

Posted by: markfromark | December 7, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

""I guess with the addition of an outfielder [Jayson Werth], it would make another outfielder a little bit more comfortable to move, if you get the right deal," General Manager Mike Rizzo said. ""

This guy Rizzo's a joke right? How many outfielders do you have on this team other than Werth and Willingham? Morgan -are you kidding?? Morse - average at best. Bernandina? Now we know why he was in the minors so long. With Werth in Center and Wllingham in left, you need a rightfielder - Francouer is an upgrade over any of the guys here.

The Nats will never get to be like the Phillies by buying just one of them.

Posted by: Dog-1 | December 7, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

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