Next in line for my new plan for the Nats is Right Field. Follow along with the series here.
The Nats really, really, REALLY need Elijah Dukes to return to his 2008 form next year. Why is that? There is no other option on the market for a full-time RF that the Nats would realistically go after (or that would want to come to the Nats). Dukes has significantly lower power and walk numbers this year in addition to huge drop in defensive value in RF. FJB suggests Dukes needs to find himself in more hitters counts, and it certainly makes sense. We know Dukes is capable of returning to his 2008 self in terms of power. We can hope he returns to that form in terms of his eye and his defense. I believe he'll rebound, and I don't believe for a second that the Nats would non-tender him. It doesn't make sense from a talent perspective, but it also doesn't make sense when you consider the poor free agent market.
The best option out there for the Nats is Mark DeRosa, who would fit in very well with the Nats. It would give them a backup plan at 2B in case the Guzman transition fails, a good corner OF platoon guy and really a competant fielder at every position besides C and CF. It wouldn't be fair to call DeRosa a "bench guy" (and obviously, he wouldn't agree to that role), but he would be a nomad of sorts, playing mostly 2B and RF. I think he would be a good signing and would continue to give the Nats more options defensively.
As I've said before about Maxwell and Davis, neither are really ideal candidates, but that's the (lack of) depth of the Nats in AAA/AA. Mike Daniel could emerge as another option, but his setback season in 2009 doesn't exactly help his candidacy.
Sleeper Pick (from the organization): Austin Kearns
Apparently his value didn't bottom out after the 2008 season. I'll avoid talking about Kearns a whole lot, but he is what he is: a 29 year old plus defender who was seeing 70s and 80s in his R and RBI totals only two seasons ago. The Nats certainly won't pick up his option, but Kearns might flock back to familiarity in a weak free agent market. I wouldn't bet on it, but it wouldn't surprise me.
Sleeper Pick (from outside the organization): Jermaine Dye
It may seem out of the blue, but Dye may be the Nats' one chance of making a statement in the free agent market this offseason. I don't see them chasing Holliday or Bay, but could go after Dye if the White Sox fail to pick up his option or offer him arbitration (he's a type A free agent, and not really worth giving up the draft picks). He's still a slugger, but is poor in the field, so it may seem like another Dunn/Willingham addition, but if the Nats for some reason non-tender Dukes (they shouldn't, but that's not to say that they couldn't), he could be an option.
2009 production by Nats right fielders to date: .247/.345/.444, 21 HR, 59 R, 84 RBI
2010 projection: Improved slash line, similar number of HR/RBI, more runs. Less Kearns/2009 Dukes=more production.
A list of the Nats currently under contract can also be found at Cot's.
The latest projected Elias Rankings (for Type A/B Free Agent purposes) can be found at MLB Trade Rumors.