The Nationals' outfield situation is interesting. Right now, the team likes Roger Bernandina in right field and Nyjer Morgan in center, even though Morgan is neither a good hitter or a good fielder. But could that be changing? (Note: I really hope so).
Seemingly ... yes. At least if this Ben Goessling article is any indication.
With Nyjer Morgan on the 15-day disabled list, we're getting a chance to see a different configuration of the Nationals' outfield. On most nights, that means Josh Willingham in left, Roger Bernadina in center and Michael Morse in right.
That's worth watching because the Nationals' outfield in 2011 could look more like that than you think.
Several industry sources have said in the last two weeks that the Nationals wouldn't mind making Bernadina their center fielder in 2011. Some in the organization believe he's better-suited to play the position than Nyjer Morgan; he's got a stronger arm, good range and a better grasp of fundamentals.
In other words, the Nationals are doing what they probably should have been doing anyway. Tony Plush is a funny dude, but he's really not a good enough baseball player to be in anyone's starting lineup. He's an impatient hitter and a very awkward fielder that misjudges a lot of fly balls. His one saving grace is his speed, but he gets caught stealing and picked off so often that his speed is more than negated. Bernandina may not be as fast as Morgan, but he's a better player.
So assuming this does indeed happen, who plays right field? I'm on record as being a big Michael Morse fan, but he's also 28 and probably won't hit this well again. Therefore, the best way to get a new right fielder is through free agency. Via Goessling:
There's strong organizational interest in Carl Crawford, who will be a free agent after the season and could fill some of the void at the top of the lineup. But the Yankees and Red Sox are believed to be interested in the Rays' left fielder, and the price tag could be over $70 million. It remains to be seen if the Nationals could make a serious run at a player like Crawford - or if they would commit big money over the next several years when they're likely to have Bryce Harper waiting to take over in right.
Yes, I know, Bryce Harper is going to be an outfielder. But he's also several years away, and by the time he comes up, Josh Willingham will be in his mid-30s, so you could always shift Crawford to left. I know that free agency can sometimes be risky, but at some point, you'd like to see the Nationals spend on someone. Why not Carl Crawford?