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Plenty to watch in 2nd half

Jul 13, 2010, 3:35 PM EDT

Though their 39-50 record at the All-Star break represents a 12-game improvement from 2009, the Nationals hardly feel like they reached their full potential during the season’s first half.

Has progress been made? Yes. But, as Jim Riggleman put it: “It’s kind of been a step forward and then a slow down. I won’t say a step back.”

“I think we’ve underachieved a little bit,” Mike Rizzo said. “I don’t think we’ve played as well as we can.”

The next two weeks could be important for the Nats, who must decide by the end of the month whether to trade away guys like Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham and Matt Capps or whether to keep this current group intact and add to it.

As you’ll read on CSNwashington.com, the pending trade deadline, plus the return of several injured pitchers and the upcoming Bryce Harper negotiation all will highlight the season’s second half.

  1. Knoxville Nat - Jul 13, 2010 at 4:28 PM

    With Willingham under club control for a couple more years I'm betting he stays but Dunn gets traded to an AL team looking for a DH, CWS perhaps. Harper will sign much like SS last season, meaning last minute, with a bonus that will exceed $9 million.

  2. Anonymous - Jul 13, 2010 at 4:52 PM

    It all depends on what they can get for Dunn. A couple of questionable "A" prospects (which is probably what the White Sox were thinking) just won't do. But yeah, his fielding is too much of a detriment even with his overall improvement. In 3-4 years (33-34 years old) Dunn will definitely be a DH or retired without some dramatic off season improvement fielding wise. That's the lifetime of the contract his agent is probably seeking. That just doesn't make sense for these Nats who hope to be competitive annually by then.And then there's this rumor from Buster Olney: "Heard this: Would-be free agent Adam Dunn has just about lost interest in working out a long-term deal with the Nationals because of what he perceives to be a lack of urgency from the team in working out a new deal. He does not feel there seems to be the The Nationals have had conversations with other teams about possible deals involving Dunn, and it figures they will trade him … A 1-2 year re-up of Dunn against mediocre prospects surely makes sense for the Nats. If one of the AL teams gets desperate and decides to part with a top prospect similar to a Smoak? Then you have to make the deal. If he finishes the season with the team and leaves you get two first round picks next year. Given the talent that Mike Rizzo has collected in his front office you almost have to assume that those picks will be top prospects (unlike past choices by Mssr Bowden).

  3. Anonymous - Jul 13, 2010 at 5:18 PM

    Say what you want about Dunn (bad defense, not clutch) but he is still the Nats best hitter and they only have 3 above average hitters in their lineup. That said they have to listen to offers because if someone is willing to trade a Monterroor an Alonso for him yo have to do it; then use the money slotted for him to plug up one of many of the holes they still have (Right field, second base, catcher, shortstop?)If you don't get sufficient value for Dunn then I recommend they extend him for 2 years as you are not guaranteed a first round compensation pick (that depends on who signs him). Dunn will almost certainly continue to put up good numbers for at least 2 more years.Willingham and Capps are different stories; there is a very good chance that their numbers will regress as they are both having career years; Capps especially is expendable because they have others who can fill his role.

  4. rmoore446 - Jul 13, 2010 at 6:21 PM

    Dunn and his agent almost certainly want more than a two-year deal. And who can blame them? The length of the extension is likely what has stalled the negotiations.

  5. Anonymous - Jul 13, 2010 at 6:28 PM

    Again, as good a hitter as Dunn is, even given his continued and laudable progression and improvement hitting wise. The Nats are a National League team. He must play somewhere on the field. This is a guy who looks like a DH within 2 years. To sign him to more years would be taking the risk that he would at least become one of the top 5 hitters in the game. And tradeable in 2 years to an AL team even with his contract. However, I suspect his agent is asking for a no-trade clause in addition to the longer time frame. Dunn hates getting traded far more than the idea of DH'ing. No-trade, 3-4 years? If you are Mike Rizzo do you sign Adam Dunn?

  6. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 13, 2010 at 6:29 PM

    Anyone who thinks Dunn will sign less than a three year deal is nuts. He needs at least a 3 year deal at $42 mil at a minimum.

  7. greg - Jul 13, 2010 at 6:40 PM

    yeah, i like how people can "recommend" that a the team do something they're unlikely to be able to do… there's absolutely no reason whatsoever for dunn to sign a 2 yr extension. unless it was for stupid money.

  8. Anonymous - Jul 13, 2010 at 7:00 PM

    Everyone just keep in mind that Dunn was a free agent less than 2 years ago; he was 2 years younger and teams were not lining up to sign him for 'stupid' money. If his position is that he wants to test the market again unless he gets 3 or more years then they should trade him now if they get good return or let him walk; take the draft picks and use the money in the FA market wisely.

  9. sjm105 - Jul 13, 2010 at 7:22 PM

    This is a tough call. The fact that Dunn has said he wants to stay makes me think we should sign him, and I agree there is no way he or his agent would settle on 2 years. I think 4 years is probably ok considering Marrero has shown very little. Capps on the other hand is marketable right now and I would like to hope we see what is out there for him. Keep Willingham and we have enough holes that Rizzo should stay busy for the next few weeks. Not talked about in this article but do you think Riggleman has been told to keep playing Morgan to see exactly what we have. I would have definitely had Bernadina in center. I am hoping Desmond settles down a little in the 2nd half and shows he is our shortstop for the next 5 years. Not sure what to do about 2nd and with no Flores how long do you keep Nieves?go nats!!!

  10. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 13, 2010 at 7:46 PM

    Everyone remember…. Dunn wouldn't be the only free agent 1st baseman on the market and his best money likely will come from the AL were he will have to DH most of the time (something he doesn't want to do).If he truly wants to stay here he'll have to take a 3 year at less money than someone MAY pay him. It's all up to him and what kind of a chance he wants to take.I believe the Nats can sit tight till after the trade dead line.

  11. Anonymous - Jul 13, 2010 at 7:47 PM

    I think 4 years is probably ok considering Marrero has shown very little.Marerro has been showing a lot hitting wise … but his problem is the same as Dunn's. He can't field his position.Justin Bloxom, last year's draft pick, is another possibility. He's in Hagerstown and will almost assuredly be promoted to Potomac next year, possibly this year. He may be 2 years away. Marerro is probably 1 – 2 years away.You really can't sign Dunn for more than 2 years for the kind of money he wants with a no-trade clause. Mike Rizzo won't do it.

  12. DCJohn - Jul 13, 2010 at 10:58 PM

    We have to start winning now. Zimmerman, Dunn, Willingham are probably the best 3-4-5 hitting combination in our division. As we've seen, you cannot get through this line up without one of these guys doing damage. They is also something that they bring the intangible, team chemistry. This team's problem is the starting rotation, other than Strasburg. It's fixable, even this year. But for this team to start being contenders it has to build. Play Kennedy more if you have to. Push Willingham up to lead off because he seems to able to get on base. Bench Morgan. Play Morse. Tell Stammen, Atilano, and Martin that the next two weeks are it. We cannot afford to go on a ten game road trip and come home 3-7, with Strasburg picking up the two of the wins.

  13. Anonymous - Jul 13, 2010 at 11:48 PM

    DC; if you think that we can win now then you are delusional. You can tell Stammen, Atilano, Martin whatever you want; they don't have the weapons to win in the majors consistently. In a couple of years when you have Strasburg and Zimermann at the top of the rotation and they dont have innings limitation and you have Storen closing you have a shot. In the meantime you need to use players such as Dunn and Willingham as building chips for the future where you trade them in for younger, cheaper more athletic players who will be at their peak when our young starters are at theirs. The last thing you need is to tie up millions in long term contracts (a la Guzman) trying to win 5 more games in a season where the team is not going anywhere.

  14. A DC Wonk - Jul 14, 2010 at 12:05 AM

    "But yeah, his fielding is too much of a detriment even with his overall improvement"Is it? I know he's not great, but his UZR/150 is ahead of other first basemen such as: Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Mark Texiera, and Prince Fielder.I'm with DCJohn on this (who wrote: "Zimmerman, Dunn, Willingham are probably the best 3-4-5 hitting combination in our division.")There are a lot of mediocre-or-worse spots on the team. 3-4-5 is not one of them. Getting rid of one of them simply makes building a good team one step harder (unless you get something really good).

  15. Anonymous - Jul 14, 2010 at 12:20 AM

    DC Wonk, I wouldn't give them away either but I would certainly not extend them by 3 – 4 – 5 years as some are suggesting; you have to use your resources wisely; you build a decent team first and then you augment it with some free agents who may put you over the top. Teams like the White Sox and the Angels might feel that they are close enough to winning where they may trade a good prospect for an Adam Dunn; in that case you have to do it.

  16. Anonymous - Jul 14, 2010 at 2:34 AM

    I'm in agreement with DCJohn. I not only think our 3-4-5 is the best in the division, but among the best in the league. He's also right that our starting pitcher is still an issue, but can be addressed in the very near future. Can we start winning now? I'm not sure about the 2nd half of the season, cause I'm not sure when our pitchers will be coming back & Strasburg will be shut down late August/early September. However, I think it is very realistic that this team could be in wild card contention next year and onto bigger things after next year. I think Strasburg-Zimmermann-Detwiler will eventually make a strong 1-2-3. Then when you add 2 of the following with at least one of the first 3: Olsen, Marquis, Wang, Lannan, Stammen, Martin or Atilano as the 4 & 5 men, it is a strong rotation. Yes, there are improvements that need to be made & I wouldn't rule out acquiring another starting pitcher even, but if we trade our 4 or 5 hitter (cause our 3 hitter won't be going anywhere), we do take a GIANT STEP BACKWARDS in building a team.

  17. Anonymous - Jul 14, 2010 at 1:28 PM

    'I think it is very realistic that this team could be in wild card contention next year and onto bigger things after next year' From your computer to god's ears – I hope you are right; unfortunately it is much more likely that you are delusional and here is why: 1) Strasburg will still be on an inning limit next year and he is also likely to take some lumps before he becomes a consistent winner. 2) Zimermann will most certainly be on an inning limit next year coming off Tommy John surgery and also he does not yet have a track record which guarantees that he will be a consistent winner. 3) There is very little evidence to guarantee that Detwiler will be a consistent winner. 4) Marquis and Lannan should be OK as 4 and 5 and there actually is some historical evidence to suggest they may fit that role provided everything is wonderful with the other 3; Stammen, Martin, Atilano et al – not major league caliber for a winning team. 5) big holes at Catcher, 2nd base and right field – this is assuming Bernadina moves to center and Morgan moves to another team. 6) There is absolutely no evidence that Desmond will be the long term solution at short stop – its possible but no better than 50/50. This is why we may be better off flipping a couple of big contracts for solid prospects and using the money to plug in some of the many holes; if Marerro can give you 70% of what Dunn gives you (I don't know that he can; it's just an example) at 10% of the salary then you have 10 million to bolster pitching plus other holes. This is how the Marlins have operated for years and they have remained competitive despite a minuscule budget.

  18. Joe Seamhead - Jul 14, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    Concerning Chris Marrero: .292 BA,12 HR's,50 RBI's,98 Hits, all are leading the team, along with TB's. He also has .343 OBP and .446 SLG which are both 2nd on the team. He also has 11 errors. I think his hitting improvements are playing a part regarding a longterm deal for Dunn.Also an interesting fact regarding Mike "Take Me Out For a Defensive Replacement After I go 3-4" Morse: Though he's played multiple positions,the guy hasn't had one error in the Major Leagues since 2005.

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