Nationals have options if Dunn doesn't re-sign

Nationals have options if Dunn doesn't re-sign

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals had a five-day window to negotiate with their own free agents. The exclusive rights came to an end at 12:01 a.m. ET on Sunday, and Washington's free agents can now negotiate with the other 29 clubs.

Most notable among them is first baseman Adam Dunn. According to a baseball source, the Nationals have had a three-year deal on the table for three months, but Dunn and his agent, Greg Genske, have not accepted the offer.

Dunn has made it known for quite some time that he wants a four-year deal, but the Nationals are not going to budge from their three-year offer. Dunn nor Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo did not respond to several messages left by MLB.com.

One person familiar with Dunn's thinking believes it's less than 50-50 that Dunn will not return to Washington.

Don't expect the Nationals to wait long for Dunn to respond to the offer. They have other options when it comes to filling the first-base position. Their top choice is Carlos Pena, who is considered a "character guy." He had a regular season to forget in 2010, however, hitting just .196 and striking out almost as often as Dunn. However, Pena is considered a much better defender than Dunn.

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If they can't get Pena, look for the Nationals to go after Aubrey Huff or Adam LaRoche, who are also free agents.

Don't count out Rizzo making a trade for a first baseman. If Adrian Gonzalez or James Loney are available, look for Washington to try to acquire one of those players.

Gonzalez is coming off one of his best seasons, hitting .298 with 31 home runs and 101 RBIs for the Padres. Loney played in 161 games for the Dodgers and drove in 88 runs.

If the Nationals can't trade for or sign a first baseman, look for the Nationals to put outfielder Josh Willingham at the position even though he has played three games there during his career.

Besides Dunn, the Nationals also have five other Major League free agents -- pitchers Miguel Batista, Scott Olsen and Tyler Walker and outfielders Willie Harris and Kevin Mench.

Walker was released Friday, while Olsen was placed on waivers and elected to become a free agent. Walker and Olsen are not expected to return to the club.

Washington has not had serious talks with Batista, Harris or Mench, and they are allowed to talk to the other 29 teams.

Batista did an excellent job as a long reliever. However, Batista didn't receive much action during the month of September because the club had two other long relievers in Olsen and Craig Stammen.

Harris has made it known for weeks that he wants to stay with the Nationals because of his great relationship with Rizzo and the Lerner family.

Harris has been a valuable player coming off the bench, driving in 32 runs in 2010. He also can play every position except for pitcher, catcher and first base.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on twitter -- @washingnats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.