When Jayson Werth returns later this season from a broken wrist it would seem the Nationals have a full outfield. Put Michael Morse in left and slot Bryce Harper and Werth in either center or right field. When Werth returns, there will be no other place for Michael Morse if Adam LaRoche continues to play as well as he has at first.
But even with a projected full roster, the Nationals are still looking for a true center fielder and they could be interested in a long-term solution. Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com Tweeted Thursday Washington has contacted teams around the league to let their intentions be known.
Bryce Harper is in CF today for 25th time in 53 starts. But Nationals are still telling teams they want to find a long-term answer in CF. DKnobler (@DKnobler) June 28, 2012
The continued search for a long-term center fielder is an interesting indication of what could be the Nationals' future plans. In getting a legitimate starting center fielder, they would in turn leave one of their current starters out. With a healthy Werth, the team would have four starting outfielders. Morse could move back to first base, but that would signal the departure of Adam LaRoche.
The 32-year-old LaRoche has a team option for next season and his return to form this year has increased his chances of returning with the Nats. If they choose to decline the option then LaRoche will become a free agent.
Even if they make a trade and let LaRoche walk this offseason, however, they would still have an excess of starting quality everyday players for this year's final months. There is the possibility of trading LaRoche before July's deadline, but as the team's home run (15) and RBI (48) leader it would be a surprise if they shipped him out midseason. LaRoche has been a huge part of their first place standing through the season's first three months. He has struggled recently though and seen his season average dip to .251. Maybe with his power numbers the Nats could be selling high.
In searching for a center fielder there are several candidates that have been linked to the Nationals in the past. Minnesota's Denard Span has come up before and he his enjoying a decent season with a .277 batting average. Peter Bourjos of the Angels has also been connected to Washington in the past, but his .237 batting average is a glaring weakness.
Another option would be B.J. Upton of the Tampa Bay Rays. Upton is set to become a free agent this offseason and is not expected to be back with the team. He is excellent in the outfield, but hasn't hit above .250 since 2008. He has a .247 average this season with a .305 on-base percentage, numbers that would slot him far down in the Nationals' batting order if acquired.