The outfield outlook for 2011

With Nyjer Morgan on the 15-day disabled list, we’re getting a chance to see a different configuration of the Nationals’ outfield. On most nights, that means Josh Willingham in left, Roger Bernadina in center and Michael Morse in right.

That’s worth watching because the Nationals’ outfield in 2011 could look more like that than you think.

Several industry sources have said in the last two weeks that the Nationals wouldn’t mind making Bernadina their center fielder in 2011. Some in the organization believe he’s better-suited to play the position than Nyjer Morgan; he’s got a stronger arm, good range and a better grasp of fundamentals.

Bernadina, who is hitting .275/.333/.425 this season, has mostly played right field. Who would replace him over there?

There’s strong organizational interest in Carl Crawford, who will be a free agent after the season and could fill some of the void at the top of the lineup. But the Yankees and Red Sox are believed to be interested in the Rays’ left fielder, and the price tag could be over $70 million. It remains to be seen if the Nationals could make a serious run at a player like Crawford - or if they would commit big money over the next several years when they’re likely to have Bryce Harper waiting to take over in right.

It seems more likely, though, that the Nationals would pursue Crawford than Jayson Werth, who could command $100 million in free agency and is deemed an injury risk.

If Bernadina became the center fielder, another immediate question is what becomes of Morgan. He is arbitration-eligible after next season, though he could be within a few days of the Super Two cutoff after this season. Some scouts prefer Morgan as a fourth outfielder, and he could be an inexpensive option for that role next season, if he would embrace it.

The Nationals have discussed Morgan as a backup, and while he’s on the disabled list, they get a chance to see how they’d fare without him in center, whether it’s Michael Morse or someone else in right field.