The Nationals are next in our arbitration eligibles series...
- First time: John Lannan, Doug Slaten, Alberto Gonzalez, Mike Morse
- Second time: Sean Burnett, Jesus Flores, Wil Nieves
- Third time: Josh Willingham, Scott Olsen, Joel Peralta
- Fourth time: Chien-Ming Wang, Tyler Walker
The Nationals have to make decisions on a dozen players prior to the December 2nd non-tender deadline. They're known for their willingness to go to hearings.
Lannan got the Opening Day start for the Nats, but elbow issues surfaced in May and he was optioned to the minors in June. He posted a 3.42 ERA, 6.2 K/9, and 1.8 BB/9 in 11 starts after his recall, improving on his career peripherals and probably earning a contract for 2011. A couple of other starters, Olsen and Wang, will probably hit the free agent market after shoulder injuries wrecked their seasons. Wang didn't pitch in the pros at all. Olsen started out strong but could not recapture his success after returning from the DL.
The Nationals have four arbitration-eligible relievers in Slaten, Peralta, Burnett, and Walker. Slaten was designated for assignment in February, but he went on to have a strong season and dominated lefties. Peralta and Burnett were effective as well, with the latter even getting a few save chances. All three lefties should be tendered contracts. Walker went down with a shoulder injury in June and will be non-tendered.
Gonzalez and Nieves are expendable role players. They're not expensive, but the Nationals still may let one or both go. Flores, 26 this month, missed the entire year after having elbow and shoulder surgeries during the offseason. Wilson Ramos is now the team's catcher of the future, but Flores could be retained for little or no raise upon this year's $750K salary.
Morse, 28, earned a role on next year's club with a .289/.352/.519 performance in 293 plate appearances. The more expensive Josh Willingham will handle an outfield corner, barring a trade. Willingham will earn more than $6MM in his third arbitration year.