Werth could shift to center field next season
Veteran may move to make way for acquisition, Harper in right
DALLAS -- The Nationals are giving serious thought to moving Jayson Werth to center field in 2012, and he could be flanked by Bryce Harper in right.
Washington entered the offseason looking for a center fielder. The team continues to have interest in signing Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes or dealing for a player such as B.J. Upton of the Rays or Denard Span of the Twins.
But the Nationals have Werth to fall back on. This past season, Werth played in 19 games in center field and made one error. He spent most of the season in right.
If Werth starts the season as the center fielder, general manager Mike Rizzo said Harper is a candidate to become the starting right fielder. Harper just completed his first season in professional baseball, hitting a combined .297, with 17 home runs and 58 RBIs for Class A Hagerstown and Double-A Harrisburg. The 19-year-old Harper was the first overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.
The other candidates to play right field are not currently known. Jonny Gomes is a free agent, and Roger Bernadina is considered no more than a fourth outfielder.
"We put Jayson out there [late last season] to find out if we had ourselves a center fielder in-house," Rizzo said. "We felt he played quite well out there. It doesn't really [force us] to trade for a center fielder, because we feel we have a center fielder in house already.
"We have Harper and several others that could fill that bill [in right field]. It depends if we deem Harp ready, when we feel he is ready. That figures into the equation. Are there other options out there? And what is the cost in acquiring those other options?"
Rizzo indicated that it has been difficult to acquire a center fielder via trade.
"It's a position that is very demanding," Rizzo said. "There is not a big pool of those types of players. The teams that have them, know what they have and they know the value that is placed upon them. They want to be compensated for them fairly."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.