Nationals still in pursuit of Sosa

Nationals still in pursuit of veteran Sosa

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals remain interested in outfielder Sammy Sosa.

According to a baseball source, general manager Jim Bowden and farm director Andy Dunn met with Sosa's representatives, Tom Reich and Adam Katz, in Palm Beach, Fla., on Thursday night to discuss the possibility of Sosa signing with the Nationals.

Bowden was not available for comment, but the source said the two parties are in a friendly disagreement on the kind of contract Sosa should get. The Nationals want to give him a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training, while Sosa wants a guaranteed contract with a decent salary. Last season, Sosa made over $17 million and is not expected to get close to that amount.

"[The agents'] position is, 'Why should Sammy Sosa be paid like Enrique Wilson? Why should a guy removed from 35 home runs two years ago be treated like that?'" the source said.

During the meeting, it was pointed out to Bowden that he gives players second chances with guaranteed money. Two examples were Reds outfielders Eric Davis and Ron Gant.

Davis missed the entire 1995 season, but the Reds signed him to a $750,000 contract in 1996. Davis ended up having a good year, hitting .287 with 26 home runs and 83 RBIs.

After Gant broke his right leg in a motorcycle accident, the Reds signed the right-handed hitting outfielder, who went on to win The Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year in 1995.

Sosa, on the other hand, is coming off the toughest season of his career. Sosa played for the Orioles last season, hitting .221 with 14 home runs and 45 RBIs. He spent time on the disabled list twice because of an abscess and staph infection on the bottom of his left foot and a lesion under his right big toenail.

The Nationals look at Sosa as insurance in case Jose Guillen's injured left shoulder has not fully recovered and Alfonso Soriano continues to refuse to play the outfield.

If Sosa were to make the team out of Spring Training, the Nationals could have an outfield of Guillen in left field, Soriano in center and Sosa, while Marlon Byrd, Ryan Church, Michael Tucker and Robert Fick would become the reserves in the outfield. Brandon Watson, currently the leading candidate to start in center field, would likely begin the season at Triple-A New Orleans.

Sosa is the only player to have three 60 homer seasons and is best known for battling Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire for the home run title in 1998. McGwire ended up with 70 home runs, while Sosa finished with 66. Sosa won the National League MVP that season.

Sosa has 588 career home runs.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.