Hello Hello Mr. Bowden, Can You Spare An Outfielder?

What former Detroit Lions GM Matt Millen was to wide receivers, Washington Nationals GM Jim Bowden is to corner outfielders. After signing Adam Dunn to a 2-year, $20 million contract, the Nationals have seven capable outfielders at their disposal. Nutjob Elijah Dukes, slick fielding Willie Harris, steady Austin Kearns, old friend Lastings Milledge, talented but inconsistent Wily Mo Pena, and new arrival Josh Willingham are the other six. Is it possible Bowden would ship one of these players, five of whom are right-handed bats, to the division “rival” Mets?

Before taking a look at each of these players, I e-mailed Ed Chigliak at Federal Baseball to get some insight about the Nationals’ plan to find playing time for their battalion of outfielders. Ed said that Dunn will be playing first base, according to Bill Ladson at, meaning OBP-machine Nick Johnson is likely on the trading block. Willingham is slotted in at leftfield, centerfield will be either Milledge or Dukes, and rightfield will be manned by Milledge, Kearns, or Dukes. Harris will be used in a utility role, and Pena is unlikely to make the team. Keeping in mind the Nationals were formerly the Expos, and therefore indirectly meet Omar Minaya’s roster building requirements, here’s a brief profile of the six potentially available outfielders. Projected 2009 stats are from the various projection systems and Beyond the Boxscore’s community WAR project spreadsheet.

Elijah Dukes

2008 - .264/.386/.478, 2.9 WAR

Projected 2009 – .260/.370/.460, 2.5 WAR

The talented but colorful Dukes seems poised for big things in his career, if he can control his emotions. He’s just 24 years old, can mash, and is a capable fielder according to UZR and +/-. It sounds strange to call Dukes “untouchable”, but he likely is. Plus his behavior at Shea Stadium in September showed that maybe he wouldn’t be too happy about playing for the Mets. Then again, Dukes hasn’t seemed happy no matter where he’s played.

Willie Harris

2008 - .251/.344/.417, 3.2 WAR

Projected 2009 - .255/.340/.390, 1.5 WAR

Most of Harris’s value comes from his defense, but he’s improved his hitting over the last two seasons. Think Endy Chavez, but with a bat and the ability to play the infield if need be. BtB deemed Harris the sixth most valuable leftfielder in baseball in 2008, so he’s a steal at $1.5 million a year through 2010.

Austin Kearns

2008 - .217/.311/.316, 0.6 WAR

Projected 2009 - .253/.348/.420, 1.6 WAR

It doesn’t seem like it, but Kearns is a strong defensive outfielder. His career UZR/150 is 8.3, and he’s been +27 over the last three seasons according to +/-. Additionally, his poor 2008 at the plate doesn’t look so bad considering his .251 BABIP, compared to .305 for his career, and a 21.1% line-drive %, which was better than his career %. Kearns is still just 28, so a bounce back career at the plate is not out of the question.

Lastings Milledge

2008 - .268/.330/.402, 0.4 WAR

Projected 2009 - .275/.345/.430, 1.4 WAR

Ah yes, Blastings Thrilledge. I expect an explosion of “LET’S GET MILLEDGE” posts from Mets bloggers in the coming days, similar to the wave of “LET’S GET MANNY” posts. I’d welcome him back to Flushing, but based on how he departed and what’s gone on over the last year it seems implausible.

Wily Mo Pena

2008 - .205/.243/.267, -1.0 WAR

Projected 2009 - .255/.315/.420, 0.0 WAR

Pena is a physical monster, measuring 6’3” and 270 lbs. Not surprisingly, he is an awful fielder and his performance at the plate is not good enough to compensate. He is a free-swinger, evidenced by his career walk rate of 6.3%. To his credit he has some power, posting an ISO of .194. If he can be had for a low-level prospect it’s worth a shot, but giving up anything more than that would be foolish.

Josh Willingham

2008 - .254/.364/.470, 2.3 WAR

Projected 2009 - .260/.360/.460, 1.5 WAR

The underrated Willingham was plagued by back injuries in 2008, but should be ready to go by opening day. He is a poor defender, but has been a good enough hitter to earn the nickname “The Hammer.” Imagine him platooning with “The Irish Hammer?” Willingham’s affordable contract means he probably isn’t going anywhere, and has the starting job locked up in leftfield for the Nats.

Which players can the Mets trade?

The Nationals could use some depth at catcher, so perhaps Ramon Castro and a prospect would be a starting point. They’re also pitching starved. While Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell are probably unavailable, maybe Eddie Kunz, Michael Antonini or another similar pitcher would interest the Nats. Keep in mind the surplus of outfielders means Bowden is selling low.


Omar stands pat, content with a platoon of Fernando Tatis and Daniel Murphy in leftfield. It won’t be because of fear of trading within the division (see Milledge for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider). I’d love to see Willingham or Harris on the Mets, but given their cheap contracts and value it’s unlikely even Bowden would give them up. Kearns is enticing, but the $8 million he’s owed in 2009 is troublesome. In 2010 he has a $10 million team option or $1 million buyout. He might be worth a gamble if the payroll allows it. Murphy earned a chance to at least platoon in the big leagues after his strong showing in 2008, and a trade for a corner outfielder would almost certainly mean he starts the season in AAA Buffalo.

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any vetting or approval process.