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Stick a fork in 'em – the 2009 Nationals

Jun 15, 2009, 4:48 PM EDT

It could have been done before the end of April, but I didn’t have the
idea for the segment back then. So let’s officially declare the
Nationals dead for 2009 and look ahead to 2010.

The 2010 depth chart

Catcher: Jesus Flores (Arb.), Wil Nieves (Arb.), Josh Bard (Arb.), Luke Montz

Flores, who hit .311/.382/.522 in 90 at-bats before going down with
a shoulder injury last month, is the long-term answer behind the plate.
If the Nationals don’t want to pay to keep Nieves around, Montz could
come up and serve as an adequate backup.

First base: Adam Dunn

Nick Johnson is a free agent at season’s end, as is forgotten man
Dmitri Young, so the Nationals will probably stick Dunn at first base
next year. As much of a disappointment as the team’s outfielders aside
from Dunn have been, the team still has alternatives there and Dunn’s
glove is less of a problem in the infield.

Second base: Anderson Hernandez, Alberto Gonzalez, Willie Harris

Ronnie Belliard is a free agent and is very unlikely to be brought
back. Hernandez has a capable glove, but he hits like the backup
shortstop he was always destined to become, and the Nationals like
Harris better in the outfield than at second base. Maybe prospect Danny
Espinosa will be a possibility by 2011, but the Nats will need to look
outside of the organization for an upgrade.

Third base: Ryan Zimmerman, Kory Casto

Zimmerman, who signed a five-year deal back in April, is the only Nationals under control beyond 2010.

Shortstop: Cristian Guzman, Anderson Hernandez, Alberto Gonzalez

Guzman will make $8 million next year in the final season of a deal
done in the second half of last season. Since he is injury-prone, the
Nationals need to find a better backup for him, but that would be taken
care of if they turned Hernandez into a utilityman.

Left field: Lastings Milledge, Willie Harris, Leonard Davis
Center field: Elijah Dukes, Justin Maxwell, Rogearvin Bernadina
Right field: Josh Willingham (Arb.)

Or you could go with Willingham in left, Milledge in center and
Dukes in right, though I think that’d be a weaker alignment. I don’t
see this as the Nationals’ starting outfield next year: Milledge could
be traded for another disappointment and Willingham is a candidate to
go in a deadline deal next month. Still, it’s a group with some upside
and one that wouldn’t cost more than $5 million in 2010.

Rotation: John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Scott
Olsen (Arb.), Collin Balester, Shairon Martis, Matt Chico, Ross
Detwiler, Craig Stammen, Garrett Mock, Marco Estrada

Olsen is due to be non-tendered unless he can come back and turn in a
strong second half. Even if that happens, the Nats may just go ahead
and trade him. They will, however, want to add one veteran to a
rotation only certain to include Lannan and Zimmermann. Strasburg may
well prove deserving of opening next year in the majors, but the
Nationals have to get him signed first. I still feel better about
Balester than most of the other youngsters likely to contend for jobs.

Bullpen: Joel Hanrahan, Drew Storen, Garrett Mock, Jason Bergmann,
Zech Zinicola, Tyler Clippard, Mike MacDougal (Arb.), Saul Rivera
(Arb.), Jesus Colome (Arb.), Logan Kensing

Well, obviously that’s not going to get the job done. The Nationals
will likely make the bullpen a priority this winter, even if they do
think Storen, the 10th overall pick in last week’s draft, is ready to
step in and take on a significant role. Storen may well be the closer
of the future, but the Nats will want a stopgap in the ninth and a
quality lefty. They may make efforts to re-sign Joe Beimel, Ron Villone
and Julian Tavarez, depending on how they perform over the rest of the
season.

OK, best guess time.

Washington’s 2010 roster

Lineup
SS Cristian Guzman
CF Free agent
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
RF Elijah Dukes
LF Josh Willingham
C Jesus Flores
2B Free agent

Bench: C Luke Montz, INF Anderson Hernandez, OF Willie Harris, INF Free Agent, OF Free Agent

Rotation
John Lannan
Free agent
Jordan Zimmermann
Collin Balester
Shairon Martis

Bullpen
Free agent
Free agent
Joel Hanrahan
Ron Villone
Jason Bergmann
Zech Zinicola
Free agent

Maybe second base or one of the bullpen openings could be filled
through a Lastings Milledge trade. Most of the other free agent spots
here won’t be taken by expensive players, but with less than $30
million currently committed and only Willingham, who might not even be
around, due more than $2 million in arbitration, there will hopefully
be around $20 million to spend. Andruw Jones would be an intriguing
target for the outfield, and Virginia native Billy Wagner would be a
nice get for the closer’s role.

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