Expect Nats to be busy in offseason

Expect Nats to be busy in offseason

WASHINGTON -- It could be the busiest offseason in Nationals history, and if the Nyjer Morgan/Sean Burnett trade was any indication, look for general manager Mike Rizzo to improve the team in a big way.

Rizzo has not kept it a secret what the Nationals' biggest needs are: get two veteran starters, better relievers and a front-line catcher.

"I'm not saying we are where we want to be, certainly not," Rizzo said. "We know the targets we have to hit."

Asked how the team can convince solid veterans to come to a team that has underachieved over the past two years, Rizzo said: "You have to show the veteran pitcher what the plan is, our plan for success, how we are built to perform at this level at this given time.

"We have to have a special type of veteran pitcher who is willing to give of himself as a teacher and mentor type of guy. We have to get a team-oriented person, a person that is going to give his time and his knowledge. It's not an easy task.

"We think with the additions of an Adam Dunn, a Josh Willingham and Nyjer Morgan, it's going to attract some veteran players. These guys know what we are doing here. It's all over the league where we are at and what we are trying to do. I think they can see this is the beginning of a good, exciting ballclub."

Contract issues
Free agents: Josh Bard, C; Livan Hernandez, RHP; Ron Villone, LHP; Dmitri Young, 1B.
Eligible for arbitration: Jason Bergmann, RHP; Sean Burnett, LHP; Logan Kensing, RHP; Wil Nieves, C; Mike MacDougal, RHP; Scott Olsen, LHP; Pete Orr, 2B; Josh Willingham, OF.
Player options: None.
Club options: Austin Kearns, OF, $10 million.
Non-tender possibilities: Logan Kensing; Wil Nieves; Scott Olsen; Pete Orr.

Catchers
• Jesus Flores, .301 BA, 4 HRs, 15 RBIs
• Wil Nieves, .259 BA, 1 HRs, 26 RBIs

The Nationals can't go into the offseason relying on Flores as the starter, because he recently had right shoulder surgery. He's not expected to be ready to play in a game until the middle of Spring Training.

First base
• Adam Dunn, .267 BA, 38 HRs, 105 RBIs
• Mike Morse, .250 BA, 3 HRs, 10 RBIs

Dunn is an excellent power hitter. Defensively, however, he could be a liability. What hurts the most is that he doesn't have enough range to play the position. Morse is no Gold Glove out there either, but look for him to come off the bench and become a productive pinch-hitter.

Second base
• Cristian Guzman, .284 BA, 6 HRs, 52 RBIs
• Alberto Gonzalez, .265 BA, 1 HR, 33 RBIs
• Pete Orr, .253 BA, 1 HR, 10 RBIs

The Nationals believe Guzman will prolong his career by playing second base. Members of the team were alarmed how much range he lost at shortstop. Guzman is not sure if he will make the switch, but his right shoulder injury may not give him any choice.

Shortstop
• Ian Desmond, .280 BA, 4 HRs, 12 RBIs
• Alberto Gonzalez, .265 BA, 1 HRs, 33 RBIs

Interim manager Jim Riggleman said recently he would not mind going into the 2010 season with Desmond as the starting shortstop. He has shown he could hit big league pitching, but his defense could be erratic at times. He can make the acrobatic plays, but he has some problems making the routine plays.

Third base
• Ryan Zimmerman, .292 BA, 33 HRs, 106 RBIs
• Mike Morse, .250 BA, 3 HRs, 10 RBIs

One could say that Zimmerman is the best third baseman in the National League because of his offense and defense. He could win his first Gold Glove this offseason.

Outfield
• Josh Willingham, .260 BA, 24 HRs, 61 RBIs
• Nyjer Morgan, .307 BA, 3 HRs, 39 RBIs
• Elijah Dukes, .250 BA, 8 HRs, 58 RBIs
• Justin Maxwell, .247 BA, 4 HRs, 9 RBIs
• Willie Harris, .235 BA, 7 HRs, 27 RBIs
• Mike Morse, .250 BA, 3 HRs, 10 RBIs

Willingham and Morgan will be in left and center field, respectively, but who will play right? The Nationals may go out and get a right fielder via the free-agent market. Dukes and Maxwell will also have a chance to play every day, but they must show they can hit with consistency.

Rotation
• Matt Chico, 2-4, 3.96 ERA (Minors)
• Collin Balester, 1-4, 6.82 ERA
• Ross Detwiler, 1-6, 5.00 ERA
• John Lannan, 9-13, 3.88 ERA
• J.D. Martin, 5-4, 4.44 ERA
• Shairon Martis, 5-3, 5.25
• Garrett Mock, 3-10, 5.62 ERA
• Craig Stammen, 4-7, 5.11 ERA
• Stephen Strasburg, 0-0, 0.00 ERA

Lannan is the only one who is guaranteed a spot in the rotation next year. The team would love to acquire two veteran pitchers this winter. Hernandez has earned another contract, but there is no guarantee he will be back. Money may be a factor. Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, will get a chance to be part of the rotation.

Bullpen
• Jason Bergmann, 2-4, 4.50 ERA
• Sean Burnett, 2-3, 3.12 ERA
• Tyler Clippard, 4-2, 2.69 ERA
• Mike MacDougal, 1-1, 3.60 ERA, 20 saves
• Drew Storen, 2-1, 1.95 ERA, 11 saves (Minors)
• Ron Villone, 5-6, 4.25 ERA

Although the bullpen improved during the second half of the season, the Nationals need to go out and get a closer. Is Storen the answer? It's possible. In his first professional season, Storen struck out 49 batters in 37 innings. How about this stat? He walked only eight batters.

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