Nationals targeting slugger to clean up

Nationals targeting cleanup slugger

WASHINGTON -- Baseball's annual General Managers Meetings commence Monday in Dana Point, Calif., and Nationals GM Jim Bowden will try his best to improve an offense that finished near the bottom in almost every statistical category in 2008.

Bowden was not available for comment Sunday, but a National League source said the Nationals are looking for a cleanup hitter and have targeted free-agent outfielder/first baseman Adam Dunn, Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder, Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday and free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira as possibilities to solve their problem at the No. 4 hole.

The team is also looking for a first baseman because of Nick Johnson's history with injuries and Dmitri Young's troubles with diabetes and staying in shape.

Dunn, 28, and Bowden have a history together with the Reds organization. Bowden drafted Dunn in the second round of the 1998 First-Year Player Draft. Three years later, Dunn was in the big leagues and became the Reds' best power hitter. In fact, Dunn has hit at least 40 home runs for five straight years. While he has a .247 career batting average, Dunn has a .381 on-base percentage and is versatile in the field.

Teixeira, a Scott Boras client, is one of the most high-profile free agents this year and the Nationals most likely have to break the bank to acquire his services. Teixeira hit a combined .321 with 33 home runs and 121 RBIs for the Braves and Angels in 2008. Reports have indicated the Angels and Yankees are also in the running for his services.

Fielder, 24, is arbitration-eligible, but an industry source said that it would take a blockbuster deal to move Fielder, who has averaged 42 home runs and over 110 RBIs the past two seasons. Who the Nationals would give up is not known. It's doubtful they can trade Johnson or Young as part of a deal for Fielder.

Holliday is a player the Nationals have been interested in since last summer. The Rockies are looking to deal Holliday because they feel it will be hard to sign him to a long-term deal. He is a free agent after the 2009 season and is also represented by Boras.

The Rockies are looking for starting pitching and a second baseman. Washington is overloaded with middle infielders such as Emilio Bonifacio, Alex Gonzalez and Anderson Hernandez. The Rockies had interest in acquiring Nationals hurler Tim Redding before the deadline, but it will take more than Redding to pry Holliday loose.

If they acquire Holliday, the Nationals could find themselves in the same situation they were in with outfielder Alfonso Soriano, who stayed with the team in 2006 but signed with the Cubs following his lone season in Washington. The Nationals were awarded two extra Draft picks as compensation for Soriano's departure.

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