WASHINGTON -- Entering Thursday, the Nationals had 10 players who were eligible for salary arbitration. Five of them -- pitchers Sean Burnett, John Lannan and Doug Slaten, as well as outfielders Michael Morse and Josh Willingham -- were tendered contracts, while catcher Jesus Flores and infielder Alberto Gonzalez agreed to terms on new deals. However, catcher Wil Nieves and right-handers Joel Peralta and Chien-Ming Wang became free agents.
Letting Nieves and Wang walk was not a surprise. The Nats are loaded with catchers, which made Nieves expendable, and Wang has pitched in just 24 games in the last three seasons.
However, letting Peralta get away was a surprise. Peralta had the best season of his career, posting a 2.02 ERA in 39 games. He allowed one run in his final 15 innings.
General manager Mike Rizzo was not available for comment.
Flores hit .301 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 29 games with Washington last season. His deal is worth $750,000.
Gonzalez appeared in a career-best 114 games this year, batting .247 with five RBIs. His contract is worth $600,000.
Unless they agree to terms with the club, Burnett, Lannan, Morse, Slaten and Willingham will have an arbitration hearing sometime in February
Of the five players, Willingham appears to the one who could be traded before the 2011 season gets under way. Willingham is a free agent after the '11 season, and it is believed the Nationals want young players in return for the right-handed-hitting slugger.
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.