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Mailbag: What's next for the Nationals?
10/17/2005 3:15 PM ET
With the Nationals ending their first season in Washington with an 81-81 record, a lot of baseball fans want to know about the team and the offseason ahead.

Here are some answers to your questions. Keep those e-mails coming. Thanks a bunch.

Will the Nationals look to address the lack of speed at the top of the batting order? Is the team committed to keeping outfielder Brad Wilkerson as its permanent leadoff hitter? How does Wilkerson himself feel about the role? -- John N., Ottawa, Ont.

The Nationals are looking to get more team speed at the top of the lineup. How they get it will be up to new ownership, which has not been announced yet. If the Nationals can't acquire some speed via the free-agent market, look for outfielder Brandon Watson to get a serious shot during Spring Training. Watson played briefly in the big leagues this season and went 7-for-40 (.175) in 25 games for the Nationals.

As for Wilkerson, he has stated for months that he would like to hit down in the order and be given a shot to drive in 100 runs. This season, Wilkerson had an off year in the leadoff role, hitting .248 with 10 home runs and 55 RBIs.

But keep in mind that Wilkerson played with shoulder and forearm injuries for most of the season.

Do you expect the Nationals to keep players like Carlos Baerga and Jamey Carroll on their roster next season? -- Andrew S., LeRoy, N.Y.

It's hard to say about Baerga, who was a valuable player off the bench. He is a free agent and wants to be back with the team. As for Carroll, he is in his first year of arbitration, and I expect him to be back with the team. The Nationals don't have a quality backup infielder that could replace Carroll, who can play second base, third base and shortstop very well.

What is the future of Tony Armas Jr. with the Nationals? -- Mayker C., Orlando

Armas is a free agent and most likely will not return. He made over $2 million in 2005, and the Nationals likely are not going to pay that kind of money for him next season.

Will the Nationals have open competition at third base and shortstop in Spring Training? -- Diego A., San Jose, Calif.

Cristian Guzman will continue to be the everyday shortstop. However, if Vinny Castilla is still with the Nationals, I expect him to compete with Ryan Zimmerman for the third base job. Castilla has another year on his contract, and he said at the end of the season that he signed to be an everyday player.

But interim general manager Jim Bowden said Zimmerman is ready to play every day right now. There is talk that Castilla could be on trade block this winter.

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Is Nick Johnson a free agent this offseason? -- J.P., Washington, D.C.

Johnson is arbitration eligible for the third year in a row, and he is expected to be back with the Nationals for the 2006 season.

What will the Nationals be shopping for during the offseason? -- Thom W., Alexandria, Va.

The Nationals would like to acquire two sluggers, two starting pitchers and a leadoff hitter. However, they have to get ownership and a budget before they can meet their needs. According to team president Tony Tavares, the Nationals can try to sign their own free agents and deal with their arbitration-eligible players right now.

Jamey Carroll seems to always contribute when he plays. Any idea why he is not an everyday player? -- Rod F., Haymarket, Va.

There is a general feeling in the organization that Carroll would be exposed as a hitter if he played every day. For example, Carroll got off to a great start in 2005 off the bench. But after Jose Vidro went on the disabled list, Carroll became the everyday second baseman and went into a hitting slump, and that's the reason the Nationals picked up Junior Spivey in June.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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