The Washington Nationals Continue To Search For A Center Fielder.

February 26, 2012; Melbourne, FL, USA; Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson (5) looks on together with general manager Mike Rizzo, and Pat Corrales (39) during today's spring training workouts at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE

Both MASNSports.com's Phil Wood and MLB.com's Bill Ladson wrote recently about the Washington Nationals' search for a center fielder, pointing to Arizona D-Backs' outfielder Gerardo Parra as a potential target. MASN's Mr. Wood, in his article entitled, "Another outfield possibility?", entertains the idea of Arizona dealing the third-year major leaguer, noting that the Diamondbacks' decision to sign Jason Kubel to play left pushed the 24-year-old Parra down the depth chart to a role as a fourth outfielder a year after the left-handed hitter won a Gold Glove in left field and put up a .292/.357/.427 line with 20 doubles, eight triples, eight home runs, 15 stolen bases and a .993 fld% in 141 games and 493 plate appearances over which he was worth +2.8 fWAR.

Parra was also signed as an international free agent out of Venezuela when current D.C. GM Mike Rizzo was the D-Backs' Director of Scouting, a connection MLB.com's Mr. Ladson pointed to when reporting this weekend in an article entitled, "Nationals interested in outfielder Gerardo Parra", that a baseball source told him the D-Backs' outfielder is on the Nats' radar as they continue to search for a long-term solution in center field.

The problem, of course, is that at least publicly, the Diamondbacks are saying they have no interest in dealing Parra. The D-Backs signed Kubel on December 19th. Arizona's GM Kevin Towers told AZCentral.com's Nick Piecoro in early January that though he'd, "... fielded phone calls from teams curious about outfielder Gerardo Parra's availability," he saw Parra as an important part of the team's outfield depth. "I'm not really motivated to move him," the general manager told Mr. Piecoro.

The AZCentral.com D-Backs beat reporter spoke to a "Diamondbacks source" after MLB.com's Mr. Ladson's report, in an article this weekend entitled, "Diamondbacks: No trade discussion involving Gerardo Parra", who told him, "the clubs are not currently discussing a trade." D-Backs' skipper Kirk Gibson dismissed the rumors in the article, telling AZCentral.com's Mr. Piecoro, "'There's a lot of reports. It's amusing.'"

Boston Globe baseball writer Nick Cafardo, who's mentioned this sort of thing before, once again reported on Sunday that LA Angels' outfielder Peter Bourjos, "... is still prominent on the Nationals’ wish list for center fielders." The problem, which Mr. Cafardo acknowledged on Sunday after others had made the point following his previous reports on what sources told him about the Nats' interest in the 24-year-old '05 10th Round pick, is that there's little motivation for Los Angeles to trade the center fielder unless they're overwhelmed with an offer.

Bourjos, who'll be entering his third MLB season in 2012, finished his first full season in 2011 with a .271/.327/.438 line, 26 doubles, 11 triples and 12 HR's in 147 games and 552 plate appearances over which he had a .989 fld%, a +8.1 UZR/150 and was worth +4.3 fWAR. The Angels, Mr. Cafardo writes, "... want big value back if they’re trading him." Their outfield may be crowded now with top prospect Mike Trout knocking at the door, but 36-year-old Torii Hunter is, "... in the final year of his contract, [and] there is room to keep both Bourjos and Trout."

Though Parra and Bourjos might not be available, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden and Jeff Rickard on Sunday that the Nats will continue to search for a center fielder. "We're in the market for a long-term answer in center field," Rizzo said yesterday, but as he's reiterated all winter, the Nats' GM said, "... we're certainly not going to make a knee-jerk reaction and force ourselves to go get one. We feel that we have in-house options that can play center field and handle the position. Certainly defensively, we have several players that can handle the position. [Rick] Ankiel is coming off a great defensive season for us. We know Jayson Werth will be a solid, average center fielder for us defensively this season and we've got three real good, what we feel are going to be answers down the road. Eury Perez, Michael Taylor [and Brian] Goodwin we feel all have a real good chance of being that every day type of player for us, but that's down the road."

"If we can make a deal with some of our surplus to get an answer in center field we will certainly look into that," Rizzo said, "But we're not going to rush anything and we're going to make moves and trades and acquisitions that make sense for us. We're going to be patient, we're not going to do anything to win 'now' in lieu of the future. We're always open for business like a lot of guys say, but we're not going to put ourselves in a corner and have anything that we must do."

Nats' skipper Davey Johnson thinks the talent is already there for the Nationals to compete in 2012, telling reporters recently that the roster Washington's assembled could rival what the New York Mets put together in 1983-84 before the 1986 Mets were able to win a World Series. Asked about Johnson's comments in yesterday's interview, the Nats' GM said, "Davey's Davey, he says what he thinks, and Mike Rizzo's not going to filter him. Jim Bowden couldn't do it, Mike Rizzo's not going to do it. He says it like he feels. He's one of the best baseball guys I've ever been around and when he says stuff like that I'm thrilled that he thinks that because he's such a great baseball mind and I hope he's right."

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