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11/03/10 4:22 PM EST

Inbox: Why does Dunn get bad rap?

Beat reporter Bill Ladson answers Nationals fans' questions

Why would it be so dramatic to sign Adam Dunn to a four-year deal? He has proven to be a consistent power hitter over the years. It wouldn't be a big risk.
-- Alex C., Montreal

It would be dramatic because there are holes in Dunn's game. He is a below-average defender at first base and he strikes out too much. Remember, he struck out 199 times in 2010. The Nationals are willing to give Dunn a three-year deal, but it has to be right for both sides.

It's so funny: Fans and media were saying how the Nationals should sign Alfonso Soriano to a long-term deal after the 2006 season. The Nationals are looking like geniuses for letting him go. Soriano's holes are the same as Dunn's.

I would like to see the statistics that show that Dunn's errors outweigh his offensive production. I just don't think of Dunn as an error machine, and I think the stats will show he is worth re-signing.
-- Mark N., Burke, Va.

It's not just the errors. It's his range, which is below average. There were balls that Dunn should have had, but the pitchers or other infielders were blamed for the runs scoring.

Take the game on June 25 against the Orioles. In the ninth inning, Cristian Guzman was blamed for the throwing error that cost the Nats the game. Members of the Nationals felt that Dunn should have had the ball or should have been off the base to block the ball. A day later, Dunn said he should have been off the base and prevented the ball from going past him.

No one said this publicly, but on Sept. 8 against the Mets, some members of the Nationals felt Dunn should have fielded the ball hit by Nick Evans that cost the Nationals the game. There is no way reliever Sean Burnett should have been blamed for the loss.

By no means am I saying that the Nationals shouldn't sign Dunn to an extension, but he has to get better on defense, an area that has cost the Nationals -- big time -- in the last two years.

I saw Scott Downs is a free agent. Is there any interest? He's been a solid surprise for the Blue Jays for a few years now. Also, how about Shawn Hill? I'd love to see both back.
-- Ben F., Suffolk, Va.

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Manager Jim Riggleman told me the team should add to their strength -- the bullpen -- if they can't get the starting pitchers that they want. I would love to see Downs go back to the organization that gave him his first break in the Major Leagues.

As far as Hill goes, I would be shocked if he came back because he is often hurt and the Nationals have dealt with too many injured pitchers over the years.

Will Josh Willingham be part of the rebuilding process? Why not trade him to the Braves, who will be looking for a power-hitting left fielder this offseason? I know it is taboo to trade within the division, but seriously, we do need to make room for left fielder Roger Bernadina. As you usually say, "Play the kids."
-- Dean O., Winnipeg, Canada

Willingham will be back with the Nationals. He is a popular figure in the organization. Do I see him signing a long-term deal anytime soon? No. He needs to have a great year in 2011 to be with the team long term.

Remember, too, that Willingham could play first base if Dunn doesn't come back or the Nationals don't get the first baseman they want.

What are the plans for Ivan Rodriguez after Wilson Ramos takes over at catcher? Do you think 2011 will be his last year?
-- Steve M., Fredericksburg, Va.

Rodriguez believes that he has a least four more years as an everyday player. If things go according to plan, Rodriguez will not collect career hit No. 3,000 in a Nationals uniform. So to answer your question, I will be surprised if Rodriguez is with the club after the 2011 season.

Can you tell me how the Nationals missed out on Colby Lewis?
-- James W., Warrenton, Va.

It's simple. Lewis was hit hard during the exhibition season of 2007. There is no way he deserved to make the team out of Spring Training that year. I don't fault the Nationals for that. They had so many pitchers trying out for rotation spots. The team had to go with the pitchers who were producing at that time. Lewis wasn't one of them.

From your standpoint, what would be the best move the Nats could make this offseason?
-- Ryan L., Dunn, N.C.

Get an ace starting pitcher and improve their defense, which was among the worst in the big leagues this past season. The Giants showed everyone that pitching and defense will win a World Series title.

Where do you think Craig Stammen fits in with the Nationals?
-- Nick K., Ohio

That's a great question. I would love to see Stammen get another chance in the starting rotation. He was getting his act together as a starter when he was put in the bullpen as a long reliever. I think when Spring Training rolls around, he will be considered for both roles.

What happened with Scott Olsen at the end of the season? Was he injured or was there an attitude issue? I know he didn't like being in the bullpen.
- John A., Alexandria, Va.

Olsen went home early because of a shoulder injury. It's almost a given that he will not be back with the Nationals next year after two disappointing seasons with the club.

At the end of the season, I was looking over the Nationals' 40-man roster, and a lot of pitching questions came up. Can you justify why the Nationals kept Yunesky Maya, Ross Detwiler, Jordan Zimmermann and Jason Marquis?
-- Ben F., Suffolk, Va.

In my opinion, it's too early to pass judgment on those pitchers. They didn't pitch enough in the Majors in 2010. Maya signed late and didn't join the big leagues until September. Detwiler, Marquis and Zimmermann were injured most of the season. Ask me this question a year from now. We'll have a better answer by then.

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.