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Washington Nationals: Winter Meetings End Without Adam Dunn's Replacement In Place.

The Chicago Cubs took Carlos Pena off the market with a 1-year/$10M dollar deal yesterday and rumors this morning courtesy of Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (@danconnollysun) have the Orioles and free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche expressing a mutual interest for one another as the O's try to solve their own first base issues. "#Orioles and 1Bman Adam LaRoche have mutual interest and have talked," Mr. Connolly wrote on Twitter, "No formal offer made yet, but thats prolly matter of time." LaRoche told's Mr. Ladson earlier this week, as quoted in an article entitled, "LaRoche has interest in playing for Nationals", that he would talk to the Nationals and, "would definitely have interest in playing for them," if they were on the "same page", but as the Winter Meetings came to a close today, the Nats hadn't managed to get a replacement for Adam Dunn to sign on for Phase Two...

In a meeting with the D.C. beat writers in Florida the other day, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo, as recounted by Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore in a Nationals Journal post entitled, "Mike Rizzo on pitching, first base searches", reportedly, "...reiterated he wants Adam Dunn's replacement to come from outside the organization, but he is open to any scenario -- a long-term solution or a stop-gap, a free agent signing or a trade." Rizzo was responding to reports that had Josh Willingham moving to first or Michael Morse getting a chance to start, but as Mr. Rizzo was quoted stating in's Ben Goessling article Wednesday entitled, "Nationals still prefer to go outside at first, Rizzo says", the Nats' GM said again, "'I'd rather do it externally...That tells you how comfortable I am about doing it from within.'"

Asked what he thought would end up happening at first, Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman, in an interview with Chad Dukes and LaVar Arrington yesterday on 106.7 The Fan in DC, told the hosts that, "We think that there's a couple other guys out there still that we've had on our radar for a while, and we also do feel...I think, really our fans are very adamant about putting Mike Morse over there. I get a lot of comments about that from people, 'Just put Mike over there,' [and] that's certainly an option, there's a couple left-handed hitters we still have our eye on though, and so what we feel like is that we're going to have a good offensive player at first base. It's not going to be Adam Dunn. Adam Dunn's numbers are probably not going to be matched by anybody, so we take a little hit there, but that allows us to do a few other things, but we think we're gonna put a pretty good defensive player over there who's going to put up decent offensive numbers and give some protection for either [Ryan] Zimmerman or [Jayson] Werth in the lineup." 

Are you one of the fans Mr. Riggleman mentions? Are you a "Just put Mike over there"-er? Morse, who'll turn 29 before the season starts, was acquired in a June '09 trade that sent OF Ryan Langerhans to Seattle, and he had what was clearly a breathrough season in 2010, putting up a .289/.352/.519 slash line in 98 games and 266 at bats in which he collected 12 doubles and 15 HR's, but the one-time White Sox' draft pick who broke into the Majors with the Mariners, is a Jayson-Werth-like example of a late-bloomer, the likes of which you don't see often. Morse played more games and got more plate appearances this season than he ever had at the majors, and he certainly took advantage of it, but will he be exposed for the defensive liability many think he is given full-time status at the major league level for the first time in his late-20's? Will he continue to produce after another trip through the NL when the league adjusts to a player who's relatively new to the National League?

Federal's stat-based analyst, the estimable Doghouse, took a look at Morse's surprising season at the plate in a late-season post entitled, "Is Washington Nationals' Michael Morse for real?" in which he broke down Morse's numbers and tried to find out what the hulking 1B/RF was doing differently this season that helped him turn things up/around.

Read that, consider that D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told's Mark Zuckerman in an article entitled, "Rizzo on 1B, Lee, Wang, Webb", that he, "...think[s] Michael Morse will have a more important role than one at-bat off the bench," and make your argument? Is Morse the answer at first? Do the Nationals have to get a left-handed power bat to offset the right-handed-heavy lineup they currently have? Bring your stats, bring your opinions, bring your irrational love or disdain for Morse. Make an argument. Is it Morse at first or Hammer? Or do you agree with Rizzo that the answer's got to come from outside the organization? LA's apparently looking for a right-handed left fielder, should the Nats revisit talks with LA and try to pry James Loney away? State your case...