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Even with the list of available first basemen quickly shrinking - and the price for the few remaining starters likely rising - Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said he prefers to find a successor to Adam Dunn from outside the organization.
Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena, long thought to be the Nationals' top choice to replace Dunn, signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Cubs on Wednesday, leaving Arizona's Adam LaRoche as the only bona-fide starter left on the free agent market. The Nationals could trade for a first baseman - they had been linked to the Dodgers' James Loney before Los Angeles reportedly pulled him off the market - but however they get one, Rizzo's preference is they add a new option at first.
"I'd rather do it externally," Rizzo said. "That tells you how comfortable I am about doing it from within."
Ben Goessling talks with Mike Rizzo about the Nats' progress at the Winter Meetings
The Nationals would have some options within the organization, though they might not have an everyday first baseman in that group. Michael Morse and Josh Willingham have both played the position, and Rizzo said he wanted Morse to have a bigger role than coming off the bench, so it's possible the Nationals could explore a platoon between Morse and a left-handed hitter.
Chris Marrero is probably still a year from the majors, and Rizzo said the Nationals wouldn't limit themselves to finding a one-year solution at first, rather than a long-term option.
"I think we'll explore both options," he said. "I think there's planning ahead that can take into account both types of players, so it expands our pool a little bit more."
Rizzo would not comment on negotiations with Pena, but team sources said all summer the Nationals loved the first baseman, who lives near manager Jim Riggleman in Florida. Pena said in his press conference that he had several multi-year offers.