DALLAS — It’s been a topic of discussion for as long as Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has been around. Can the team find a bona-fide center fielder (preferably one who hits leadoff) and stop the revolving door that has seen 21 different players play the position at least once in the last four years alone?
They’d like to. They’ve made no secret of that.
But should they? We talked about this very topic with Rizzo in Monday’s media session. The best route for acquiring what they’re looking for is via a trade. That much is clear. But what they want is a rare commodity. If trading for a center fielder blows up another part of the team and creates more holes than it fills, they don’t feel compelled to do it.
Jayson Werth can play center field and Bryce Harper is knocking on the door to the major leagues.
Those are the two most important factors the Nationals have to consider as they make calls and ask about the elite center fielders in the game. What will it take for the Nationals to pry away one of them? If it’s unreasonable, don’t expect them to jump at it.
In talking with a number of Nationals officials the sentiment is that the team doesn’t feel pressured to make that move. Rizzo said as much on the record on Monday, noting that Werth’s abilities there “(don’t) really key-hole us into having us to make a trade for a center fielder because we feel we could have a center fielder in-house already.”
On top of that, some noted that making a move for a center fielder could create more problems in the future for the Nationals then it solves now.
Harper is coming. Nationals manager Davey Johnson wants to give him every opportunity to make the team out of spring training — and even if he doesn’t, there’s almost no one who expects him to log another full year in the minor leagues. However long his Triple-A stay lasts, when he gets to the big leagues there has to be a place for him. If the Nationals give up something — money, players or both — to get a center fielder now, they’re going to have to do some significant shuffling when it’s time for Harper to arrive.
It’s not exactly a news flash that an outfield only has three spots. With Adam LaRoche at first base, in order to keep Michael Morse’s 31-homer bat in the lineup he has to be in left field. That puts Jayson Werth in right and Player X in center. You can see where I’m going with this.
None of this is meant to say “There’s no way the Nationals will make a move for a center fielder,” it’s just pointing out a few issues they’d have to take care of if they can find a deal that works for them.