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.
Why would the Nationals non-tender a guy like right-hander Tim Redding, but offer a contract to an injured pitcher such as Shawn Hill?
-- Ross B., Highland, Md.
The Nationals didn't want to pay Redding a lot of money, according to a baseball source, because of his second-half performance in which he went 3-8 with a 6.82 ERA. It appears that Jordan Zimmermann will be a serious candidate to take Redding's rotation spot.
As for Hill, the team feels that he has a lot of potential. When he is healthy, Hill is a pretty good pitcher. He is expected to be ready for Spring Training.
Should the Nats give up on first baseman Nick Johnson because he gets injured every year? I could definitely see the Athletics or Giants come calling in a hurry.
-- Brian F., Sacramento, Calif.
It's a tough question. If the Nationals sign Mark Teixeira or Adam Dunn, then they have no choice but to trade Johnson. Where? I don't know. It's true that the Athletics were among several teams to ask for Johnson's medical records. We'll see what happens in the coming weeks.
In one of the previous mailbags, you said that Wily Mo Pena is recovering from shoulder surgery and should be ready for Spring Training. But is there any real need for the Nationals to keep him? It seems like they have an abundance of outfielders and Pena wasn't very productive last year.
-- Kristen L., Rockville, Md.
There isn't a need for Pena. But you have to remember one thing: the Nationals declined a $5 million club option on Pena, who subsequently exercised a $2 million player option for the 2009 season last October.
Any chance the Nationals would sign Dunn to play first base?
-- Fritz S., Rockville, Md.
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If Teixeira decides to sign elsewhere, I believe Dunn will be the Nationals' next target. From what I understand, general manager Jim Bowden has made contact with Dunn's agent.
With Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero gone, who will be the Nationals' closer in 2009?
-- Rodney B., Greer, S.C.
Right now, right-hander Joel Hanrahan would be the closer, but the Nationals have interest in free-agent left-hander Brian Fuentes, so we'll see what happens as the offseason goes on.
I know the Nationals don't plan on spending much money on pitching this offseason, so what do you think about bringing Livan Hernandez back? He might not be the best pitcher in the league, but he is a free agent and, if nothing else, he's an innings-eater.
-- Will R., Rose Haven, Md.
That would be a good idea. Knowing him the way I do, I'm sure Hernandez would love to come back. However, I don't see the Nationals paying him a lot of money to come back. He most likely will have to take a discount.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.