- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2006

Q: Who will the Nationals acquire, as far as top prospects, for veterans such as Alfonso Soriano, Livan Hernandez, Jose Vidro and Nick Johnson, and what teams are likely to be involved? — Jim Storey

A: Well, Nick Johnson isn’t going to get traded. He just signed a three-year extension this spring.

As far as the other players are concerned, Nationals GM Jim Bowden will certainly be asking for the best, particularly when it comes time to deal Soriano. We’ll see if the outfielder/second baseman can really command that kind of asking price, but that won’t stop Bowden from asking.

Bowden counts 11 teams as potential trade partners, a list that probably includes the Yankees, Mets, Cardinals, Dodgers, White Sox, Red Sox, Angels and Tigers, among others. He covets outfielder Lastings Milledge and pitcher Mike Pelfrey of the Mets and pitcher Philip Hughes of the Yankees. Again, among others.

Q: With the emergence of some good young starting pitchers this month and the impending free agency of Tony Armas and Ramon Ortiz, what’s your best guess for the Nationals’ starting rotation on Opening Day 2007? — Seth Rogers

A: I guess it’s never too early to start looking ahead, so let’s give this one a shot …

John Patterson will certainly be back. Mike O’Connor and Shawn Hill, in their brief tenure here, seem to have shown they could be in the mix. The fourth spot goes to a young pitcher to be named later (i.e. somebody Bowden acquires in a trade this summer, such as Mike Pelfrey or Philip Hughes).

Now, about that final spot. There has been plenty of speculation Livan Hernandez is going to be traded before the July 31 deadline. He may yet be, but some other team would have to take on his $7 million salary in 2007. Let’s go out on a limb and say Livo again starts for the Nationals on Opening Day next spring.

Q: Did ex-Nationals outfielder Brad Wilkerson strike out a lot last year? I think this guy is leading the majors in strikeouts. — Mike Murphy

A: Yes, he did. And yes, he does.

Wilkerson led the team with 147 strikeouts in 2005, just one reason Jim Bowden was willing to move him out in the Alfonso Soriano trade.

That deal, which also included Terrmel Sledge and Armando Galarraga, looks pretty good right now. While Soriano is enjoying a career year, Wilkerson entered play yesterday with a .249 average, 13 homers, 32 RBI … and 83 strikeouts (tops in the majors).

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To

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