When the Winter Meetings begin in Nashville in four days, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo will sit in on dozens of meetings with agents and front office personnel from other teams, looking to upgrade his roster for the 2013 season and beyond.
Speaking this afternoon on 106.7 the Fan, Rizzo revealed that one of his top goals during these sessions will be to add a "dynamic" center fielder, which would allow Bryce Harper to move to a corner outfield spot.
"Circle back to months ago and weeks ago, we're still looking for a dynamic type of, if possible, a guy that could play center field for us and lead off for us," Rizzo said. "Make Harp more comfortable in a corner outfield position, which is where we see his future down the road. I think it takes a lot of stress off him physically and mentally.
"We're always in the market to look there. We have to watch the balance of the lineup, so to get a left-handed hitter would help us more than a right-handed hitter."
I guess it's fitting that I posted a list of the free agent center fielders this morning. Michael Bourn, Angel Pagan and Shane Victorino are three that would fit as leadoff hitters and can bat left-handed. (Pagan and Victorino are both switch-hitters.)
Among his other goals this offseason, Rizzo also mentioned adding depth to the Nationals' starting rotation and supplementing the bullpen.
No surprises there.
You'll notice, however, that Rizzo didn't mention Adam LaRoche's name as one of the things on his offseason to-do list.
Negotiations between the Nationals and LaRoche have not progressed very far, according to a source familiar with the talks. LaRoche is still looking for a contract with three guaranteed years, and the Nationals have not expressed much willingness to go that far.
Earlier this offseason, Rizzo had said that LaRoche was among the Nationals' top priorities, but at this point, the Nats might be starting to turn their attention elsewhere. That doesn't mean a deal can't or won't be reached at a later date, but the Nats are looking at other options should they be unable to work out a contract with LaRoche, and one of those options is bringing in a left-handed hitting center fielder to put at the top of the order.
Also, for what it's worth, during the 106.7 interview with hosts Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier, Rizzo also was asked about his big-picture strategy and whether he views this upcoming season as the year to make a splash and go all-in.
"We're going to be around here for a long time," Rizzo replied. "You've got to have a structure in place and a philosophy in place that you're always good. You strive to be always competitive and always good. They'll be cycles where you'll be better than other times in the cycle, but you want to have consistency in a system that works for the long-term."