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07/16/07 12:00 PM ET

Mailbag: Who will the Nats trade?

Beat reporter Bill Ladson answers fans' questions

The Nationals are 37-54 entering Monday's action against the Astros, and fans want to know what Washington can do to get better in the future. Here are some answers to your questions.

Dmitri Young and Ronnie Belliard are always mentioned in trade talks. Yet, they have been solid performers who have brought some much-needed veteran experience to the team. Do you think there is any chance either of them will remain with the team into next year?
-- Dan C., Annandale, Va.

For veteran leadership, the Nationals need both Young and Belliard, but I see them getting traded for prospects, which the team so desperately needs. Will the team get top prospects? That remains to be seen.

Is Tony Batista going to be traded as the deadline approaches? Is Kory Casto a third baseman or an outfielder?
-- Jeff C, Washington, D.C.

I don't see Batista getting traded because he is past his prime and is not having a good season. As for Casto, the Nationals consider him an outfielder. He has no chance as a third baseman because of Ryan Zimmerman.

Do you think right fielder Austin Kearns is good enough to be a long-time starter for the Nats? Why are his average and power numbers so low right now? Do you think he will pick it up and have a good season?
-- Brad A., Jonesboro, Ark.

Yes, I see Kearns as a long-time starter in right field, but I really don't look at Kearns' batting average. The most important thing is driving in runs, which he hasn't done all season. Why hasn't he driven in a lot of runs this year? It depends on who you talk to. Some believe it's lack of protection, while others believe he is too close to the plate, which has been allowing pitchers to bust him inside on a regular basis. Will he make a comeback during the second half? That's hard to say.

Brandon Watson earned his way back to the Major Leagues and hit well (.278). D'Angelo Jimenez (.040) cannot hit and has not been used that much in the infield. Why don't we send Jimenez back down and bring back Watson, who deserves it?
-- Breanna G., Laurel, Md.

It's a matter of need. With Cristian Guzman out with a thumb injury, it meant that Belliard had to be the everyday second baseman. So they brought up Jimenez to replace Belliard on the bench. Right now, the Nationals do not have a better alternative available in the Minors.

I'm sick of seeing Kearns and Felipe Lopez struggle. If Alex Escobar comes back to the club healthy, would we see him getting starts over Kearns, and do you think someone could replace Lopez?
-- Jeff C., Arlington, Va.

Kearns and Lopez will continue to play everyday. When Escobar returns, it will mean the end of the Ryan Langerhans/Nook Logan platoon. Langerhans and Logan have struggled most of the season.

Do you think Zimmerman should be thinking bunt occasionally with a man on first and no outs? He seems to hit into so many double plays and the bunt now and then for a base hit would put a lot of pressure on the defense.
-- Ray D., Rockville, Md.

One of the reasons Zimmerman had a great year in 2006 was because he was often bunting for base hits. But the Nationals are so desperate for runs this year, it's not wise for him to bunt for base hits. They need him to drive in runs.

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Do you think trading for Alfonzo Soriano was a fair deal? Yes, he is a good player, but I knew that he would become a free agent and not sign with the Nats.
-- Jonah M., Burke, Va.

It was a great deal for the Nationals. I think general manager Jim Bowden would make that deal over and over again. The players he gave up -- Brad Wilkerson, Terrmel Sledge and Armando Galarraga -- haven't set the world on fire, either.

After Soriano left Washington, the Nationals were able to get an extra pick in the 2007 First Year Player Draft, which turned out to be pitcher Josh Smoker, who may not sign with the team.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.