- The Washington Times - Monday, May 29, 2006

Q: Is there any way the Nats can keep Alfonso Soriano and not trade him until after the season? He’s one of the few bright spots and is quickly becoming a fan favorite. The Nats are starting to play better, so I would hate to see a fire sale. Trading away players such as Soriano and Livan Hernandez would tear our hearts out, and Washington baseball fans have had enough disappointment! Can we keep him? — Patti Greenawalt

A: Sure, if the team is willing to spend $50 million-plus on a guy who might make the difference between 70 and 75 wins next season.

Sorry for the gloom-and-doom answer there, but it had to be said. Now, that’s not to say there’s zero chance of Soriano re-signing with the Nationals. It would require a major commitment from the new owners, and it would require Soriano wanting to stay here and continue to play left field (which he may be willing to do under the right circumstances).

But if the Nationals don’t believe they can re-sign him, they have no choice but to trade him. A team has to get something in return for a player of that talent, and if the Nationals let him walk as a free agent this winter, they get nothing (aside from a compensatory draft pick).

Q: Now that the Lerner ownership group has introduced itself to the Nationals staff, when do you expect to see changes in the front office? — Gregory Hicks

A: We’ve already seen a handful of changes, with new team president Stan Kasten announcing the hirings of four high-level club executives last week.

There will be more changes in the coming months, but I wouldn’t expect a whole lot of really dramatic firings/hirings until after the season. It’s not real easy to overhaul an entire front office in midseason, and with 2006 a lost cause anyway, the club might as well wait until November.

Q: Will Theo Epstein become the new GM of the Nats? — Anthony Borwick

A: Uh, last time I checked, Theo had a job in Boston. At least, I think it’s him inside that gorilla costume.

While there was some reasonable speculation last winter that Epstein might come to Washington if the new owners had been named, I think that ship has sailed. If the Lerners/Kasten decide not to retain Jim Bowden (still not an absolute certainty), look for them to make a strong push for someone from the Braves family (Dayton Moore, Frank Wren, or maybe even John Schuerholz).

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

submit a question, go to the Sports Page

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