The Nationals' acquisition of Jayson Werth begs a couple of questions about Jim Riggleman's outfield configuration moving forward. Is there still room for Josh Willingham?
Willingham was assumed to be the Nats' left fielder for 2011, but Werth's arrival in right field will necessitate some movement. Roger Bernadina, who played 77 games in right before moving to left when Willingham sustained a knee injury in August, had the best offensive season of his brief career in 2010. But there are only three outfield spots and four players - Bernadina, Willingham, Werth and center fielder Nyjer Morgan - vying for them.
Willingham could be the odd man out, despite two productive seasons with the Nats, during which he has hit .263 with 40 homers and driven in 117 runs in 247 games. The 31-year-old, who made $4.6 million in 2010, would like to remain in Washington long-term. But GM Mike Rizzo has been hesitant to give Willingham, acquired in a November 2008 trade with the Florida Marlins, a multiyear deal.
At the trading deadline in July, there was significant interest in Willingham. Detroit kicked the tires on him, figuring he could play outfield or serve as designated hitter. The Braves and Phillies were interested, believing that Willingham was a useful right-handed bat that could make a difference coming off the bench. With Werth gone, the Phillies could be a match, though that would mean the always troubling dilemma of dealing within the division.
When healthy, Willingham can be a decent source of right-handed power. But he needs to stay healthy. He can hit left-handers (.267 with 32 homers and 90 RBIs in 286 games) and right-handers (.264 with 71 homers and 246 RBIs in 622 games) equally effectively, but some scouts see him as a platoon-type guy.
It wouldn't be surprising to hear Willingham's name mentioned during this week's Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., but don't expect Rizzo to just give him away. Still, Willingham will be a free agent in 2012, and an astute general manager will try to get something for a player with value rather than just letting him depart.