Nationals Acquire Willingham and Olsen – Manny More To Come?

Courtesy of zjbell51

Courtesy of zjbell51

The Nationals made the first big splash of the offseason yesterday by trading second baseman Emilio Bonifacio and two minor leaguers to the Florida Marlins for outfielder Josh Willingham and pitcher Scott Olsen.

My first thought was that Willingham had been acquired as a catcher (he came up to the majors in that position and I had earlier mentioned that Jose Flores could be upgraded during the offseason). Jim Bowden was quick to point out that the Nats had “acquired him as an outfielder.” This means two things in my view. Austin Kearns and Wily Mo Pena need to either be demoted to the minor leagues or traded before spring training. Both guys want and need a full time job, and it will do a lot to help team chamistry if they are out of the way. By the way, why do the Nats have six outfielders?

Tim Dierkes ventured a guess that “maybe the Nats consider Josh Willingham their cleanup hitter acquisition and will back out of the Teixeira derby.” Newsflash: Josh Willingham is not a cleanup hitter, Jim Bowden. A good year will probably yield 30 homeruns and 100 RBI’s, but that is not showstopper material. As for Mark Teixeira, I have a really hard time imagining that the Nationals will be able to compete for his services, especially with the Yankees and Angels (among others) preparing to make offers that will likely make Teixeira a franchise player somewhere. While I would agree that with the bounty of outfielders in Washington this probably puts a damper on Adam Dunn rumors (darn), I would say that the Nationals need a headliner if they want to fill the seats and make a serious run in the NL East.

All in all this is a great trade for the Nationals. Olsen will fill the rotation hole that I had previously reserved for Mets free agent Oliver Perez and I am confident that both players have the similar upside. Willingham is a major upgrade to Kearns, Pena, and Willie Harris as well. At this point, I still want to see the Nationals sign an ace: looking at guys like Freddy Garcia, who are comebackers that can actually be wooed to DC, would be a great idea. Consensus says that the second base hole will be filled by Anderson Hernandez, who finished strong last season.

Where does the power bat fit then? First base is always a possibility, but aside from Teixeira, the only cleanup hitter in the market is Jason Giambi, who would bring nothing new or exciting to the table and is 38 years old. Not a great option for the Nats if you ask me, but if they can sign him for a very cheap two year contract he may be happy and the Nats would get 30 homeruns in return. Assuming that first base is out, that leaves the outfield. I want to see a guy like Adam Dunn or Manny Ramirez in DC. Badly. The Nats need to put themselves on the map with a big name, because let’s face it, the Nats are not the Rays yet and need the kind of boost only a superstar can offer.

More to come on the Nats.

UPDATE [9:04am]: Tim Brown over at Yahoo comments on the Nationals and Manny Ramirez- “After witnessing Manny Ramirez’s impact on the Dodgers and their fans, the Washington Nationals and GM Jim Bowden are promising everyone they’re going to be players in the Manny bidding. So either they will be or they want everyone to think they are.”

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