The main story from Nationals GM Mike Rizzo's discussion with reporters this afternoon was that the Nationals plan to pursue a No. 1 starter in the offseason, whether it's through free agency or a trade. Here are a few other highlights from Rizzo:
--Rizzo said the Nationals need more balance at the top of their lineup, and is looking for guys who can get on base more often. He said Nyjer Morgan will get a shot to be the leadoff hitter, but isn't guaranteed the job. "Career-wise, coming into the season he's a .285 hitter," Rizzo said. "I think if he gets back to his norm as far as batting average, I think he'll be the type of on-base percentage we need. But we're certainly going to give him the opportunity to do it. We've always said there's going to be open competition at a lot of spots, and that will be one of them."
--The Nationals' corner outfielders, Rizzo said, are a mixed bag. He all but said Josh Willingham will be back in left field once he recovers from knee surgery, but added that Roger Bernadina and Michael Morse still have more to prove. "Roger and Michael are a little bit of an unknown," Rizzo said. "We don't know what they're going to do on an everyday basis, if they're going to be a platoon system or if one's going to take the job from the other. So we're still a little bit in a wait-and-see, but I like the progression that both of them have made and together, the numbers - if you put those two sets of numbers together - it's a pretty reliable corner outfield position."
--By sheer dint of the schedule, the Nationals will have to figure out what they're doing with Adam Dunn before free agency opens and they have a chance to pursue a replacement for him. But Rizzo said Dunn's status will be determined "in conjunction with the rest of the negotiations." He added the Nationals need to get a four-hole hitter that plays first base. We understand that. We want it to be Adam Dunn. But if it isn't, we need to address that situation."
--Though he said the Nationals have not discussed payroll for next year, and sidestepped a question about whether the team is ready to acquire enough players to contend in 2011, Rizzo said the team is becoming an attractive destination for free agents. "The industry sees what we're trying to do here, possibly more so than the public," Rizzo said. "The industry sees what we've got going here - the core of young players here. (Phillies manager) Charlie (Manuel) himself has said many glowing things about where we're going, and so has (Braves manager) Bobby Cox. And they see us the most. So I rely on what they tell me. I rely on their view of things greatly. I think they see where we're going. They see the inner-workings of what we've done. They see how far we've gone from a couple of years to this year. In their words, it's come a real long way. We feel we're going in the right direction. I think it's recognized in the baseball world we're going in the right direction. I feel the players and the respective free agents that we'll talk to will see that when we map out the plan to them, and we'll show them what we can be and what will be in the near future."