The Nationals have been patient with Nyjer Morgan all season, believing the center fielder and leadoff hitter would return to something approaching his 2009 form, if not match the dynamo performance he gave in 49 games with the team last year (a .351 average, .396 OBP, 24 steals and a 13.3 UZR in center field).
At last - though it's probably too late to completely revive his 2010 season - he's trending toward his performances from last year.
Morgan has a .313 average, .361 OBP, five RBI and a pair of steals in his last eight games. He's pulled his fielding back within 1.5 runs of average, after an ugly start to the season in center field. And he's given manager Jim Riggleman enough confidence to keep him in the leadoff spot, rather than bumping Morgan down to the No. 2 hole like he did in early June.
Where does that leave the Nationals with Morgan? It remains to be seen. He's still only going to have two years and 120 days of service time at the end of the season, assuming he's in the majors all year - though a few reports have had the Super Two cutoff within a couple days of there, meaning the Nationals could have a decision to make about whether to offer Morgan arbitration.
At age 30, this is still his first full year in the majors, and he's clearly not the player he was last season. Then again, no one should have expected him to be.
The Nationals will have an interesting decision to make on Morgan, though. They clearly need another bat at the top of their lineup, which they could get from another position. But there's some talk in baseball circles that the team would be better off with Roger Bernadina in center field; one scout said he liked Morgan best as a fourth outfielder who can also play the corners and give a team energy in 300-400 at-bats a year.
If he is arbitration-eligible, they'll have to decide where he projects in their future and if he's worth a modest raise. Team officials still speak highly of Morgan, though they don't speak as highly of him as they used to. He can help himself with a strong final two months, keeping himself in the team's long-term plans and setting up a nice payday after next season, if not this year.
Even though he's not coming close to last year's numbers, and probably won't, he's headed in the right direction.