NEW YORK | We're at that time of the year where Nationals manager Jim Riggleman is getting asked as much about the composition of the 2011 squad as the fate of the 2010 team, which has three games left in the season. On Friday, Riggleman gave a couple interesting tidbits about possible directions for the 2011 team:
--He said the five outfielders who received most of the Nationals' playing time this year - Josh Willingham, Nyjer Morgan, Roger Bernadina, Michael Morse and Justin Maxwell - could well be the five that open the season with the team next year. "I think the most likely scenario is that we'll have pretty much the same group," Riggleman said. Now, of course, the big caveat here is if the Nationals sign a free agent who could lock down the right field spot by himself. If that happened, Riggleman said the Nationals' current outfielders would "be put on the back burner." But there aren't many sure things in the outfield market this winter; Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford are the two big names, and each would be expensive. David DeJesus and Jason Kubel each have team options, though it seems unlikely either one would be let go by his team (the Royals and Twins, respectively). "Those few guys who are free agents, they can almost hand-pick the place they go," Riggleman said. "I think we have to go into it trying to do the best we can with the guys we have, and hopefully, with a year under their belt, they make progress."
--Nationals GM Mike Rizzo has said the team's biggest priority this winter will be acquiring a No. 1 starter. But if the Nationals don't come up with one, Riggleman said, "With the guys we have, I think, to a man, each of them feels like they can come back here next year and pitch a little better in the rotation." If the Nationals don't get a starter, Riggleman said, they could add another reliever to "strengthen a strength." The bullpen has been the high point of the team, and but it's likely the Nationals could see some drop-off with their relievers next year. And even if they don't, the Nationals could use added bullpen depth to make up for whatever pieces they didn't add to their rotation.