Mailbag: How will Nats use outfielders?

Mailbag: How will Nats use outfielders?

The Nationals finished the 2008 season in fifth place with a 59-102 record and fans want to know what Washington can do to get better next season. Here are more answers to their questions.

With the acquisition of Josh Willingham and rumors swirling about the Nats wanting Carlos Gonzalez, I can't help but notice that the team has a lot of outfielders. What do they plan on doing with all of them?
-- Pat R., Oakton, Va.

That's a good question. Most of the outfielders are corner guys and I can't help but think that at least one of them will be traded. People in and out of the organization have told me that general manager Jim Bowden would never trade Lastings Milledge, but Milledge was the only regular who ended the season healthy. I believe he could be traded unless the Nationals believe he can play center field. Milledge was OK out there.

If they tried to trade Austin Kearns, for example, the Nationals most likely will have to eat some of his $8 million salary.

How do you think Scott Olsen will impact the clubhouse dynamic? He's not known for his cool.
-- Unidentifed Nats fan, Washington, D.C.

I don't know how he will impact the clubhouse. I can't answer that question until after the season starts. I was impressed with the way Olsen answered the question about his troubled past. He said, "I knew something had to change, so I started off slow and tried to keep myself out of situations where there might be a problem. I think that is the biggest thing with all this maturing and everything that everybody claims that I've done. I think it comes down to one thing, and that is, don't be in situations where something might happen."

I also believe Olsen will upgrade the rotation and give the Nationals the innings they need in 2009.

Do the Nats have a legitimate chance at landing Mark Teixeira, or is it just talk?
-- Chris E., Glendale, Calif.

It's not just talk. The Nationals are trying hard to get Teixeira. He could solve some serious problems they went through last year. He is a switch-hitter and could provide the power from the left side they are looking for. He has also stayed healthy during most of his career.

Now that Emilio Bonifacio has been traded to the Marlins for Olsen and Willingham, do you think trading Jon Rauch to the D-backs for Bonifacio was a good trade? The Rauch trade never sat well with me, and I think this confirms the Nationals lost out in the deal.
-- Will R., Rose Haven, Md.

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I thought the Rauch deal was a good one. If not for Bonifacio, whom is still considered by many to be a top prospect, the Nationals don't get Olsen and Willingham. Let's not forget that Rauch did not pitch well for Arizona, posting an ERA over 6.00.

I agree with you that the Nats should play the kids. But is there any indication they will? They have a lot of young outfielders and now they have more. No matter how good they are, I don't see a place for Roger Bernadina, Leonard Davis or Justin Maxwell.
-- Garry F., Calgary, Alberta, Canada

If you look at it, they are playing kids such as Milledge, Elijah Dukes, Jesus Flores, John Lannan and Ryan Zimmerman. As far as Bernadina, Davis and Maxwell go, there is a possibility they could start the '09 season in the Minor Leagues. I think they must have a strong Spring Training to make the Opening Day roster.

What are your thoughts on the new jerseys? Will they amount to more wins in 2009?
-- Michael S., Mount Airy, Md.

New jerseys do not bring more wins; good players bring more wins. But I like the new jerseys the Nationals put together. The road uniforms remind me of the Expos' old road uniforms.

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