Today is Part One of a two part series. We'll examine what the roster will look like with -- and without -- Adam Dunn next season, and try to predict the additional moves that would accompany both decisions. Part Two will post Monday.
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Let's take a look at how the team will line up next season, assuming Rizzo hands Dunn a three-year contract, and the big fella accepts it.
The team is set in the infield: Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, a combo of Adam Kennedy (whose option the Nats will surely pick up) and Danny Espinosa at second base, with Dunn at first and Alberto Gonzalez backing everyone up.
The outfield is muddled: Josh Willingham is team-controlled one more year, so expect him to be back. But that's where the certainty ends. You have to figure the team would like to get by with either Nyjer Morgan or Roger Bernadina platooning with a right-handed hitter in center.
What we're left with is the great right field debate.
Michael Morse is proving to be exposed as an every day player, but he can be a useful bat off the bench and against lefties. So the team needs to find a left-handed hitting starting right fielder, preferably with some pop, and on a two-year contract (so as not to block one Bryce Harper).
Catcher is set: Ivan Rodriguez will bring his .280 OBP out for another season as he slogs his way to 3000 hits, and hopefully Wilson Ramos gets three starts a week to slow Pudge's efforts down.
Rotation: Surprisingly, this should be fairly easy. How about Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Yuneski Maya, John Lannan and Jason Marquis? As bad as Marquis has been, the team signed him to a two-year deal and he'll be given every opportunity in spring training to win a rotation spot.
But there are plenty of other candidates for that fifth spot anyway, and a typical team goes through half a dozen guys rotating in-and-out of the bottom of the rotation every season. If Marquis can't answer the bell in March, he's a sunken cost and the Nats cut bait and go with a younger arm. Or Livan Hernandez (shudder).
Bullpen: Always an interesting topic of debate. Drew Storen is the cost-controlled closer every team dreams of. After that, you gotta figure Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett will return as the primary set-up men. All the rest of the pen is fluid with several candidates to return, but if Rizzo thinks he's going to be seriously competitive, he'll want to find a legitimate left-handed specialist.
And most assuredly, Jim Riggleman will be here to kick around again, at least to start the season.
Let's ponder the batting order:
CF Morgan (or Bernadina)
RF Free agent or trade
Does that look like a wild card chasing lineup to you? I don't know, I'm asking. Because it looks to me much like the regular everyday lineup this season that's middle of the pack in the league in runs scored and on their way to lose 90 games or so.
Will the growth in the pitching staff be able to lead this lineup toward the playoffs. It's still defensively challenged, but you hope that whoever they bring in for right field isn't a butcher.
I wonder if -- combined with the pitching -- it looks like a contender to Mike Rizzo?