Mailbag: Why take a risk on Cabrera?

Mailbag: Why take a risk on Cabrera?

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.

What is the point in wasting money on a pitcher like Daniel Cabrera, who has a career ERA over 5.00 and did not win more than 10 games in the past four seasons? What am I missing here?
-- Alex C., Montreal

Washington admires Cabrera's potential and feel that pitching coach Randy St. Claire can fix him. Cabrera is 27 and the Nationals have always loved the way St. Claire has worked with young pitchers.

Why haven't the Nationals given third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, the team's most respected player, the contract he deserves?
-- Eileen S., Arlington, Va.

I'm sure both parties will be working on a contract soon. The Nationals are trying to improve the team via trades and free agency before talking to Zimmerman about a multi-year contract.

A leadoff hitter has always been a problem since the Nationals arrived in Washington. Is free-agent second baseman Orlando Hudson on the radar?
-- Rogers C., New Carrollton, Md.

Before I answer your question, I have to say that Alfonso Soriano did a good job from the leadoff spot in 2006. To answer your question, the Nationals do have interest in Hudson, who could be a tremendous boost for the club. He would make a good leadoff hitter and clubhouse presence.

What is Elijah Dukes' future with the Nationals?
-- Phyllis D., Tampa, Fla.

As long as he stays free of controversy, Dukes has a great future with the Nationals. As of now, I see him playing regularly in the outfield.

I know Wily Mo Pena is back because he exercised his player option, but with so many outfielders, what do you think the team is going to do with him?
-- Dan H., Aspen Hill, Md.

That is a great question. I don't see how he plays on a regular basis because he strikes out too much and he is not a good outfielder. Based on who they have right now, I have to say that Josh Willingham, Lastings Milledge and Dukes are going to be the outfielders.

I know the Nationals have a lot of young talent. Which Minor Leaguers do you see battling for a Major League job?
-- Austin D., West Hartford, Conn.

Have a question about the Nationals?
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I see Jordan Zimmermann, Collin Balester and Shairon Martis battling for a spot in the rotation and Justin Maxwell and Roger Bernadina battling Milledge for the center-field job. That's about it.

Don't forget that it wasn't Nick Johnson's fault that he fractured his leg in 2006. He crashed into his own player. He should be back at full strength in 2009. I wouldn't give up on him. He has heart. He's working out every day to be stronger and ready to resume his position. He'll recover from the torn sheath in his right wrist just as he did with the fractured leg. The Nationals should save themselves $160 million dollars and put it where it's needed: pitching.
-- Johnson J., Sacramento, Calif.

There is no question in my mind that Johnson has heart and is a very good player. I would like to see Johnson get another chance with Washington. But this is the problem the Nationals have with Johnson: He gets hurt every year. When he is injured, Johnson misses a lot of time. Take the wrist injury for example: Johnson missed most of the 2008 season. Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz had the same injury and didn't miss the rest of the season.

Is there any chance that the Nats will go after Willy Taveras? He steals bases and can play the outfield.
-- Dalton C., Olympia, Wa.

This is a player who keeps coming up because of reports. I asked the front office about Taveras five times and all five times I was told there is no interest. The Nationals are loaded with right-handed-hitting outfielders. The team also don't like that fact that Taveras doesn't get on base enough.

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