Mailbag: Can Nats make a run in '08?

Mailbag: Can Nats make a run?

The Nationals have made a lot of moves this offseason, and fans want to know if they will be better in 2008. Here are some answers to your questions.

How can you say the Nationals can compete for a division title? They don't have a true No. 1 starter in their rotation. Also, trading for troubled players -- Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes -- never works out. The only thing they have done is upgraded their bench.
-- Frank P., Washington

Here's why I say the Nationals can compete for a division title: the National League East is weaker. The Mets have the offense, but their pitching does not scare me. The Phillies also have firepower on offense, but I don't think they have enough pitching. I think the Braves are going to miss Andruw Jones offensively and defensively. The Marlins are starting over, and I don't expect them to compete in 2008.

I believe the Nationals have enough starting pitching as long as they stay healthy. Shawn Hill and John Patterson, for example, are talented pitchers. All they need to do is stay healthy and Washington will be a force in the division.

Don't overlook the fact that the Nationals have a deep bullpen, which could help the starters as well.

I disagree with you regarding Milledge. How can anyone say he is a troubled player? All he did was high-five a bunch of fans after hitting his first Major League home run. So what if he is confident in his own abilities? More power to him. The Nationals need more confident players, not the soft ones they've had in the past.

Yes, Dukes has had a troubled past, but I'm confident that Dmitri Young, Barry Larkin, Manny Acta and Lenny Harris will straighten him out.

What do you think of this random trade idea: Cristian Guzman to the Yankees for Carl Pavano? Before you dismiss it, it would offer both sides a chance to reverse the least productive free-agent signings of their recent histories. For Pavano, it would give him a chance to return to the NL East, where he had his greatest success. And Guzman could develop into a utility infielder and designated hitter for the Yanks.
-- Matt M., St. Albans, Vt.

I would rather have Guzman on the Nationals. He was off to a great start before he hurt his thumb last year. I'm intrigued by what he can do for Washington in 2008.

Have a question about the Nationals?
Bill LadsonE-mail your query to MLB.com Nationals beat reporter Bill Ladson for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
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You are right. Pavano was successful in the NL for a little more than one season, but he hasn't done anything since 2004. Pavano, according to published reports, comes with a lot of baggage.

What will the Nationals' outfield look like next season? If it were up to me, I would have Wily Mo Pena in left field, Milledge in center and Dukes in right.
-- David M., Woodbridge, Conn.

I noticed that you don't have Austin Kearns in the mix. He will be the right fielder, while Dukes will be the fourth outfielder. By playing in a smaller ballpark, the Nationals are hoping that Kearns will be more productive than he was at RFK. There is no question that Kearns is an excellent defensive right fielder.

Where do you think Felipe Lopez will fit in this upcoming season? I really hope the Nationals don't trade him. I love his speed and his ability to switch-hit.
-- Asher K., Marietta, Ga.

Lopez will be one of the most intriguing players during Spring Training. To me, Lopez is the only true leadoff hitter on the team. However, he is coming off his worst year as a regular, and he is listed as the backup shortstop and second baseman on the depth chart.

I would like to see Lopez get another chance. I've said this before: I believe Lopez has superstar talent, and it's time for that talent to come out in 2008.

Will left-hander Ross Detwiler have a chance to compete for a starting job this season?
-- Paul C., Fall River, Mass.

He will be in Spring Training, but I have to believe the Nationals want him to start the season in the Minor Leagues. However, you never know when it comes to Washington. Detwiler could surprise some people and make the team.

Have the Nationals given up on outfielder Justin Maxwell?
-- Mark M., Aurora, Ontario

Absolutely not. The Nationals love Maxwell, but they have said that they want him to hone his skills with Double-A Harrisburg. Maxwell will be in Major League camp.

I have not heard anything about right-hander Tim Redding. What is the Nationals' situation with him?
-- Robert C., Houston

Redding is doing well and will compete for a spot in the rotation. He deserves that shot after what he did last season. The veteran righty is arbitration-eligible, so we should be hearing about him real soon.

I believe the players in the Mitchell Report should be punished according to when they used the substance. What is your opinion on how punishments should be dealt out?
-- Dan A., Fairfax Station, Va.

I'm a person who believes in second chances. So, no, I don't think the players should be punished. These players are going to be attached to this Report for the rest of their lives. That's punishment enough.

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