It's not just the Nats beat writers talking about the Washington Nationals and the nation's capital as a possible destination for soon-to-be free agent first baseman Carlos Pena any more. Actually, the first time I remember hearing someone put the Nats and Pena in the same sentence was just after the Non-Waiver Trade Deadline passed when ESPN.com's Tim Kurkjian appeared on the Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio show "First Pitch with Rob Dibble and Jim Memolo" and tried to rationalize the Nationals' decision to refrain from trading Dunn as had been expected by explaining that the offers just weren't there, so, "...if you don't get what you want then you still try to sign him to a free agent deal, if you don't, then you lose him to free agency, you take the picks and then you do your best to go sign [Paul] Konerko or Derrek Lee or Carlos Pena or another free agent first baseman out there."
The next mention of Pena's name, and the one that more Nats fans seemed to pick up on, came from MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling, who wrote, in an article entitled, "Zimmermann, Pena, & Dunn", about how, "One source in the organization said the Nationals' braintrust 'loves [Pena],'" as a potential replacement at first if the team and their 30-year-old middle-of-the-order bat Adam Dunn are unable to agree on a deal to keep the free agent-to-be in D.C. Since then, both MLB.com's Bill Ladson, who said Pena, "is on the top of [the Nats'] list," in an article entitled, "If Dunn doesn't return, Nats have options" and the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, who had the 32-year-old Pena listed as a target should the Nats shun Dunn in a recent article entitled, "'If not Adam Dunn, then who?", in which he mentioned that "The Nationals appear to be interested in Pena for what they perceive to be his outstanding defense," have written articles that seem to be taking the possibility of Pena becoming a Nat seriously.
Mr. Kilgore's colleague at the Washington Post, Thomas Boswell, wrote in a recent chat entitled, "Ask Boswell", that his sources tell him, "Rizzo wanted to trade Dunn," but, "...Kasten and the Lerners didn't want to do the deal and killed it." MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling wrote in a late September article entitled, "Sources say Nats unlikely to resign Adam Dunn" that though Mr.'s Lerner and Kasten might want Dunn to stay, "...the people making baseball decisions, like general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Jim Riggleman, see Dunn's defense as the chief issue," with signing the slugger to the long-term deal he wants. The anonymous scout Phil Wood spoke to in his article yesterday entitled, "Phil Wood: Scouts' take on 2010 season", said much the same, acknowledging that, "'Replacing Dunn's power stats will be difficult,'" but noting:
"'...[Dunn] piled up a lot of those in less-than-clutch situations. He's slow afoot and he'll never be much of a first baseman. All they need is a stand-in for a couple of years until the kid from Potomac [Tyler Moore] is ready to play.'"
(ed. note - "Moore > Marrero? Really?") Dunn's .217/.335/.427 line with RISP is what the scout's most likely referring to with his "less-than-clutch" comments, or maybe his .169/.344/.366 line with RISP and 2 out, and Dunn's .223/.337/.466 slash in the second half didn't help his cause heading into free agency, but the big middle-of-the-order bat did manage his second-straight 38 HR season with an .892 OPS, and his defense (13 E's, .990 fld%, -3.4 UZR/150) was better than expected in his first full season at first base. It might not matter, however, as even national writers are now mentioning Pena's name in connection to the Nats, with SI.com's Jon Heyman writing in a section of his "Daily Scoop" column subtitled, "Around the Majors", that, "If [Pena] doesn't re-sign with Tampa Bay, the Nationals are a possibility,":
"Washington wants to emphasize defense, so it seems unlikely that it will re-sign Adam Dunn. Dunn should be in the AL as a DH, though people close to him suggest that he is reluctant to give up the glove and finally switch leagues."
Will Dunn give up the glove and sign with an AL team, or return to the middle of the order in D.C.? Should he? Are the Nats just keeping the discussion on Dunn's D to limit his options to AL teams that Dunn doesn't seem to want to sign with? Is Pena as clearly a defensive upgrade over Dunn in your mind as he seems to be in most scout's and rumor monger's? Will the hometown love for Dunn, combined with the affection the Nats' owner reportedly has for the big lug influence the decision, or is it up to the baseball people? Is it really all about that 4th year and nothing else as many here have hinted? How much does Dunn's free agent status influence the decision? If the Nats can only get one pick in return, is it enough? I said a few months back, 3-years/$45 gets it done. Then I was sure it would happen, now? Not so sure...