Today is Part One of a two part series. We'll examine what the roster will look like with -- and without -- Adam Dunn next season, and try to predict the additional moves that would accompany both decisions. Part Two will post Monday.
Say the Nationals re-sign Adam Dunn...
Does that mean the team expects to be competitive next season?
There's been a rash of "What will the Nats roster look like in 2012?" going around since signing Bryce Harper with the No. 1 overall draft pick, but what about next year?
Does General Manager Mike Rizzo think he has the horses to make some noise next year, after finishing this season 10 games or so better than last (barring a monumental September collapse)?
They'll have to make another 10-plus win jump next year too to get into the conversation.
Let's take a look at how the team will line up next season, assuming Rizzo hands Dunn a three-year contract, and the big fella accepts it.
The team is set in the infield: Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, a combo of Adam Kennedy (whose option the Nats will surely pick up) and Danny Espinosa at second base, with Dunn at first and utility man Alberto Gonzalez backing everyone up.
The outfield is muddled. Josh Willingham is team-controlled one more year so expect him to be back. That's where the certainty ends.
You have to figure the team would like to get by with either Nyjer Morgan or Roger Bernadina platooning with a right-handed hitter in center.
What we're left with is the great right field debate.
Michael Morse is proving to be exposed as an everyday player. He can still be a useful bat off the bench and against lefties. So the team needs to find a left-handed hitting starting right fielder, preferably with some pop, and on a two-year contract (so as not to block one Bryce Harper).
Catcher is set with Ivan Rodriguez. He will bring his .280 OBP out for another season as he slogs his way to 3000 hits, and hopefully Wilson Ramos gets three starts a week to slow Pudge's efforts down.
Rotation: Surprisingly, this should be fairly easy. How about Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Yuneski Maya, John Lannan and Jason Marquis?
As bad as Marquis has been this season, the team signed him to a two-year deal and he'll be given every opportunity in spring training to win a rotation spot.
There are plenty of other candidates for that fifth spot anyway, and a typical team goes through half a dozen guys rotating in-and-out of the bottom of the rotation every season.
If Marquis can't answer the bell in March, he's a sunken cost and the Nats cut bait and go with a younger arm. If all else fails, there's Livan Hernandez (shudder).
The bullpen is always an interesting topic of debate. Drew Storen is the cost-controlled closer every team dreams of. After that, you figure Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett will return as the primary setup men.
All the rest of the pen is fluid with several candidates to return, but if Rizzo thinks he's going to be seriously competitive, he'll want to find a legitimate left-handed specialist.
At least manager Jim Riggleman will be here to kick around again, at least to start the season.
So what will the batting order look like next season under this scenario?
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