|A move to first base is likely in Dunn's future.
It could have been done before the end of April, but I didn't have the idea for the segment back then. So let's officially declare the Nationals dead for 2009 and look ahead to 2010.
The 2010 depth chart
Catcher: Jesus Flores (Arb.), Wil Nieves (Arb.), Josh Bard (Arb.), Luke Montz
Flores, who hit .311/.382/.522 in 90 at-bats before going down with a shoulder injury last month, is the long-term answer behind the plate. If the Nationals don't want to pay to keep Nieves around, Montz could come up and serve as an adequate backup.
First base: Adam Dunn
Nick Johnson is a free agent at season's end, as is forgotten man Dmitri Young, so the Nationals will probably stick Dunn at first base next year. As much of a disappointment as the team's outfielders aside from Dunn have been, the team still has alternatives there and Dunn's glove is less of a problem in the infield.
Second base: Anderson Hernandez, Alberto Gonzalez, Willie Harris
Ronnie Belliard is a free agent and is very unlikely to be brought back. Hernandez has a capable glove, but he hits like the backup shortstop he was always destined to become, and the Nationals like Harris better in the outfield than at second base. Maybe prospect Danny Espinosa will be a possibility by 2011, but the Nats will need to look outside of the organization for an upgrade.
Third base: Ryan Zimmerman, Kory Casto
Zimmerman, who signed a five-year deal back in April, is the only Nationals under control beyond 2010.
Shortstop: Cristian Guzman, Anderson Hernandez, Alberto Gonzalez
Guzman will make $8 million next year in the final season of a deal done in the second half of last season. Since he is injury-prone, the Nationals need to find a better backup for him, but that would be taken care of if they turned Hernandez into a utilityman.
Left field: Lastings Milledge, Willie Harris, Leonard Davis
Center field: Elijah Dukes, Justin Maxwell, Rogearvin Bernadina
Right field: Josh Willingham (Arb.)
Or you could go with Willingham in left, Milledge in center and Dukes in right, though I think that'd be a weaker alignment. I don't see this as the Nationals' starting outfield next year: Milledge could be traded for another disappointment and Willingham is a candidate to go in a deadline deal next month. Still, it's a group with some upside and one that wouldn't cost more than $5 million in 2010.
Rotation: John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Scott Olsen (Arb.), Collin Balester, Shairon Martis, Matt Chico, Ross Detwiler, Craig Stammen, Garrett Mock, Marco Estrada
Olsen is due to be non-tendered unless he can come back and turn in a strong second half. Even if that happens, the Nats may just go ahead and trade him. They will, however, want to add one veteran to a rotation only certain to include Lannan and Zimmermann. Strasburg may well prove deserving of opening next year in the majors, but the Nationals have to get him signed first. I still feel better about Balester than most of the other youngsters likely to contend for jobs.
Bullpen: Joel Hanrahan, Drew Storen, Garrett Mock, Jason Bergmann, Zech Zinicola, Tyler Clippard, Mike MacDougal (Arb.), Saul Rivera (Arb.), Jesus Colome (Arb.), Logan Kensing
Well, obviously that's not going to get the job done. The Nationals will likely make the bullpen a priority this winter, even if they do think Storen, the 10th overall pick in last week's draft, is ready to step in and take on a significant role. Storen may well be the closer of the future, but the Nats will want a stopgap in the ninth and a quality lefty. They may make efforts to re-sign Joe Beimel, Ron Villone and Julian Tavarez, depending on how they perform over the rest of the season.
OK, best guess time.
Washington's 2010 roster
SS Cristian Guzman
CF Free agent
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
RF Elijah Dukes
LF Josh Willingham
C Jesus Flores
2B Free agent
Bench: C Luke Montz, INF Anderson Hernandez, OF Willie Harris, INF Free Agent, OF Free Agent
Maybe second base or one of the bullpen openings could be filled through a Lastings Milledge trade. Most of the other free agent spots here won't be taken by expensive players, but with less than $30 million currently committed and only Willingham, who might not even be around, due more than $2 million in arbitration, there will hopefully be around $20 million to spend. Andruw Jones would be an intriguing target for the outfield, and Virginia native Billy Wagner would be a nice get for the closer's role.