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Starters, relievers on Nats' wish list

Starters, relievers on Nats' wish list

Club needs:

PITCHING: General manager Mike Rizzo is trying hard to improve the rotation and bullpen. Rizzo most likely will have to improve the team via trades or sign a free agent at the Nationals' price.

It's also possible that help could come from Washington's farm system. Pitchers Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen and Matt Chico are going to be given every chance to make the team.

Strasburg, the first overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, could be one of the club's starters, while Storen, another first-round pick from last year's Draft, could find himself in a late-inning role. Chico was the team's top pitcher in 2007, but missed most of the past two years because of elbow reconstruction.

DEFENSE: Washington finished the season near the bottom of this category. Adam Dunn and Cristian Guzman are going to start the season on the right side of the infield, but they are not solid defensive players. And no one knows if Guzman can make the switch from shortstop to second base, a position he has never played before.

Reports continue to surface that the Nats have interest in free-agent second baseman Orlando Hudson, who is better than Guzman defensively. It helps that the Dodgers did not offer Hudson arbitration. So if the Nationals sign Hudson, they would not have to give up a Draft pick. That would also mean Washington would try to trade Guzman.

It also would not be a surprise if Rizzo tried to acquire Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla, who could provide power at the position. It was Rizzo who was drafted Uggla in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft when both were with the D-backs.

Who they can or need to trade:

OF Justin Maxwell: There are mixed signals when it comes to Maxwell. People in the organization have compared him to D-backs outfielder Chris Young, who hits for power, but for a low average and compiles a lot of strikeouts.

It will be interesting if Maxwell draws interest from the Blue Jays and Indians. It's not a secret that Cleveland manager Manny Acta and former Washington scouting director Dana Brown, who is the special assistant to Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos, think the world of Maxwell. In the past, Acta and Brown often felt all Maxwell needed was a chance to play every day.

Guzman: The Nationals would trade him in a heartbeat. The problem is finding someone to take on his $8 million salary. The team may have to eat some of the money to get a deal done.

LF Josh Willingham: The Braves are one team that has shown interest, but it seems doubtful the Nationals will trade him. He provided the power Washington needed last year and he was an excellent clubhouse presence.

Top prospects: OF Roger Bernadina, SS Ian Desmond, SS Danny Espinosa, LHP Ross Detwiler, 1B Chris Marrero, C Derek Norris, LHP Aaron Thompson, Strasburg, Storen. The farm system is much better than it was in 2005 and these prospects could have an impact on the Major League level in '10.

Big contracts they might unload: Guzman's contract could hinder the Nationals from making a trade. The team loves Dunn, who is scheduled to make $12 million this season, but he could file for free agency after the '10 season. If Washington is not playoff contenders before the Trade Deadline, it could swap Dunn for prospects.

Arbitration-eligible: RHP Jason Bergmann, LHP Sean Burnett, C Jesus Flores, C Wil Nieves, RHP Mike MacDougal, LHP Scott Olsen, LF Willingham.

Non-tender candidates: Bergmann, Nieves and Olsen

Payroll summation: Look for the Nats to be in the $60 million-$70 million range in terms of player salaries. It is known they will not spend a lot of money on free agents. Look for most of the salaries to be spent on young players for the long term.

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

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