Nationals ready to make more moves
After trade, Washington needs catcher to replace Schneider
WASHINGTON -- General manager Jim Bowden is trying his best to make the Nationals a better team in 2008, but again he most likely will have to do it with limited resources.
In fact, it was team president Stan Kasten who said it was unlikely the Nationals were going to shell out big dollars for high-priced free agents.
The Nats will see if free agents Andruw Jones or Aaron Rowand -- both center fielders -- are willing to play in D.C., but don't look for Washington to offer Jones or Rowand astronomical contracts.
Three days before the Winter Meetings started in Nashville, Tenn., Bowden made the baseball world know he meant business by trading catcher Brain Schneider and outfielder Ryan Church to the Mets for outfielder Lastings Milledge. This deal means the Nationals will be more athletic.
Milledge will get a chance to battle for the center-field job, a position Washington has had serious problems with over the last three years. Milledge can play the corners as well, but he feels better suited in center.
With Schneider gone, the Nationals now need to look for a catcher. They may acquire a backstop to either platoon with Jesus Flores or to be the everyday catcher, with Flores as the backup. Members of the Nats' front office have not ruled out sending Flores to Triple-A to start the season and better learn his craft.
A Rule 5 Draft pick, Flores impressed the Nationals during his rookie season. He hit .244 with four home runs and 25 RBIs, and he found himself in a platoon with Schneider during the month of September.
"We think Flores can develop into a No. 1 catcher," said Bowden. "I can't tell you how the rest of the offseason is going play out, so I prefer to answer the question in the beginning of April."
There aren't many good catchers on the free-agent market. Only Michael Barrett, Paul Lo Duca and Damian Miller stick out as quality catchers, but it appears, according to sources, the Nationals are going to offer just one-year contracts to those players.
The Nationals need more starting pitching and a power hitter to complement Wily Mo Pena. Can Milledge be the answer in terms of hitting for power? Only time will tell. One can bet, though, that Bowden is not satisfied with acquiring just Milledge to solve the power shortage.
Keep in mind the Nationals are willing to trade a player such as closer Chad Cordero to improve the ballclub. Cordero has been on the trading block for two straight offseasons, but the Nats are expecting a bounty in return. The Brewers and Mets are in the market for relievers, so there's a possibility something could materialize there.
In terms of starting pitching, Livan Hernandez has said he would like to play for Washington again, but he may prove to be cost prohibitive for the Nats. One source said the Nationals are willing to go with just young pitchers and give youngsters such as Collin Balester, John Lannan and Garrett Mock a chance to prove their worth.
Let the dealing begin.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.