Josh Willingham is under team control for one more season as an arbitration eligible player and would like to sign a contract extension to remain in Washington, but Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals aren’t interested in giving him a long-term deal and may look to trade him.
Willingham, Adam Dunn, and Ryan Zimmerman were the only Nationals hitters with more than 300 plate appearances to post an OPS above .700, so trading Willingham while seeing Dunn depart as a free agent would leave an already weak lineup looking very bare.
However, it doesn’t really make sense to give Willingham a long-term contract when he’s already 31 years old and has never been an elite hitter. He’s a solid-hitting corner outfielder who gives back some of his offensive value with poor defense, and those just aren’t the types of players you want to commit to into their mid-30s.
General manager Mike Rizzo has said that keeping Willingham for 2011 and letting him walk as a free agent is an option, but also told Kilgore that the Nationals have been getting calls from several teams interested in him. That he’s coming off August knee surgery may complicate things a bit, but Willingham is expected to be fully healthy by spring training. The question is whether he’ll still be with the Nationals by then.