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Jayson Werth's first season in D.C. didn't quite go as he hoped it would.
Stats: 150 G, 649 PA, 20 HR, 58 RBI, .232 AVG, .330 OBP, .389 SLG
8 E, 1.0 UZR, 2.5 WAR
2011 salary: $10.571 million
Contract status: $13.571 million in 2012, $16.571 million in 2013, $20.571 million in 2014, $21.571 million in 2015, $21.571 million in 2016, $21.571 million in 2017, free agent in 2018
Where he fits in: Well, he's signed for six more years and $115.4 million more, so he better fit in somewhere. After a disappointing first season in Washington, Werth will hope to come out of the gates swinging a better bat in 2012. It's still uncertain which outfield position he'll occupy. If the Nationals acquire a true center fielder, Werth will remain in right. If they feel like they're better off acquiring a right fielder, Werth will be in center. And with Bryce Harper arriving in the not-too-distant future, it's possible Werth could wind up finishing out his contract in left field.
Stats: 146 G, 575 PA, 31 HR, 95 RBI, .303 AVG, .360 OBP, .550 SLG
7 E, -5.1 UZR at 1B, -7.9 UZR in LF, 3.4 WAR
2011 salary: $1.050 million
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible, free agent in 2014
Where he fits in: A true breakthrough season has ensured Morse's place in the heart of the Nationals' lineup. He'll probably open 2012 as their cleanup hitter, providing protection for Ryan Zimmerman. Because Adam LaRoche is expected back from shoulder surgery, Morse should begin next year in left field. But look for him to work his way back to first base at some point, because his defensive play is far better there than in the outfield.
Stats: 122 G, 415 PA, 9 HR, 37 RBI, .239 AVG, .296 OBP, .363 SLG
1 E, 6.9 UZR, 1.4 WAR
2011 salary: $1.5 million
Contract status: Free agent
Where he fits in: Ankiel was abysmal at the plate early in the season, but he started producing in the second half. He also owns the best and most-accurate outfield arm in baseball. Because of all that, there could be a place for him on next year's roster, though probably as a fourth outfielder and not as a regular in center field as he was this season.
Stats: 124 G, 351 PA, 16 HR, 44 RBI, .250 AVG, .299 OBP, .451 SLG
2 E, -5.5 UZR, 0.6 WAR
2011 salary: $700,000
Contract status: Free agent
Where he fits in: Nix's 2011 followed the opposite track that Ankiel's did. He was a key offensive contributor early on, but tailed off dramatically in the second half, hampered in part by a nagging Achilles' heel injury. If he's healthy, Nix could be a valuable guy off the bench. But there's only going to be room for one left-handed reserve outfielder. Which means there's virtually no chance the Nats re-sign both Nix and Ankiel.
Stats: 120 G, 372 PA, 14 HR, 43 RBI, .209 AVG, .325 OBP, .389 SLG
2 E, 1.4 UZR, 1.5 WAR
2011 salary: $1.75 million
Contract status: Free agent
Where he fits in: Gomes' acquisition from the Reds in late-July was done to appease Davey Johnson, who desperately wanting a right-handed power bat off his bench. Gomes didn't provide a whole lot of pop, but he does have a decent track record, and teammates liked him. It's possible the Nationals look to re-sign him, though probably not for anywhere near as much money as he made this year.
Stats: 91 G, 337 PA, 7 HR, 27 RBI, .243 AVG, .301 OBP, .362 SLG
1 E, 3.5 UZR, 0.8 WAR
2011 salary: $450,000
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2013, Free agent in 2016
Where he fits in: After racking enough frequent flier miles going back and forth between D.C. and Syracuse, Bernadina will be out of options come next season. Which means he either has to make the roster or risk being lost to another club. He does just enough at the plate and in the field to intrigue you, but he's yet to be able to do it at a consistent level. Given what else they have under contract and in the farm system, the Nats might just decide to cut ties with one of the few remaining Expos signees still in the organization.
Stats: 79 G, 94 PA, 0 HR, 2 RBI, .205 AVG, .267 OBP, .265 SLG
1 E, 2.2 UZR, -0.2 WAR
2011 salary: $415,000
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2014, Free agent in 2017
Where he fits in: The stats don't look like much, but Bixler did contribute to the Nationals both via his hustle and his surprisingly strong defensive play in the outfield (he'd never played there until this season). On the one hand, the Nats should be at a stage in their development that they can find a better 25th man than Bixler. On the other hand, he's both affordable and somewhat valuable. Maybe he sticks.
IN THE MINORS
One outfielder in the Nationals' system, of course, stands out from the rest of the pack. With Bryce Harper, it's not a question of whether he'll reach the big leagues. It's simply a question of when he arrives. In all likelihood, the 19-year-old prospect will open 2012 at Class AAA. If he performs there, he could get a promotion to D.C. in midseason. In Syracuse, Harper will probably play alongside center fielder Corey Brown, who got a September call-up but wound up getting only three plate appearances before being shut down for surgery to repair an infection in his knee. Destin Hood, the Nats' second-round pick in the 2008 draft, enjoyed a solid season at Class A Potomac, posting a .364 OBP with 47 extra-base hits and 21 stolen bases. Hood's teammate at Potomac, Eury Perez has tremendous speed but drew only 22 walks in 119 games this season. Team officials really like Michael Taylor, a sixth-round pick in 2009 who recorded 46 extra-base hits in 126 games at low-Class A Hagerstown. It'll be interesting to watch how quickly the Nationals promote one of this summer's highly touted draft picks, Brian Goodwin.
Mike Rizzo has made it clear one of his top priorities this winter is to acquire either a center fielder or a right fielder who can get on base at a high clip. That's easier said than done, but it really is a glaring weakness on the Nationals' roster. The free agent class, though, isn't fantastic. If anything, the Nats might be wise to find a temporary solution for 2012 and then dive head-first into a 2013 free agent class that will include Matt Kemp, B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino and Michael Bourn.