Outfielder Laynce Nix is drawing interest from a number of teams and the former National could make a decision as early as next week’s winter meetings, a source said.
The Nationals are among “several teams” who are interested in Nix’s services and Nix’s representation has had ongoing discussions with Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, talking as recently as this past weekend. The two sides have been in communication since the middle of the 2011 season when the Nationals first expressed interest in retaining Nix.
Nix, who was a steal on a minor league deal signed last February, put up solid numbers for the Nationals this past season but was hampered by a few nagging injuries down the stretch. He made the team out of camp as a bench player but forced his way into the lineup with steady offensive production and solid defense in left field. At the All-Star break, Nix had not only shed his designation as a bench player and pinch hitter but was patrolling left field regularly and hitting .274 with a .506 slugging percentage and 12 home runs.
His first half was good enough to slot him into the cleanup spot for a few weeks from May to July and the power he displayed on several occasions was jaw-dropping. But an Achilles issue, which often acted up without much warning, and, late in the season, a strained groin limited him to just 85 plate appearances after Aug. 1. The addition of Jonny Gomes also helped to decrease Nix’s playing time. He finished the year with a .250 average, .451 slugging percentage and a career-high 16 home runs.
For a player who has never signed a major league deal as a free agent, though, Nix did enough to prove that he has significant value and could easily fit a team as a fourth outfielder. According to his agent, Don Mitchell, some teams have discussed the possibility of a multi-year deal.
It likely wouldn’t be a huge factor in their decision if the Nationals do indeed succeed in bringing Nix back for 2012, but he also performed admirably well in nine games (six starts) at first base. He hadn’t played the position since high school, he said, but he was athletic enough to fill in well. With the news this week that Chris Marrero suffered a torn hamstring that required surgery while playing in the Dominican Winter League, Nix’s versatility and ability at first could help make him even more attractive to Washington as a backup to Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse.