Nationals likely to start Jayson Werth in center field

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Washington has been searching for a long-term answer in center field since the middle of last season, but after once again coming up empty in their attempts to trade for a veteran general manager Mike Rizzo indicated that he’ll put the search on hold until next offseason.

Rizzo noted during an interview with MLB Network Radio that “the 2013 free agent class at center field is much stronger” and the Nationals can get by with Jayson Werth in center field for now.

Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post notes that Michael Bourn, Grady Sizemore, B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino, Melky Cabrera, Josh Hamilton, and Angel Pagan are among the players who may be available as free agents next winter, at which point the Nationals’ corner outfielders will likely be Werth and top prospect Bryce Harper.

Of course, those plans could change in a hurry if Werth proves incapable of handling center field defensively at age 34 (and with just 97 career starts at the position) or one of the Nationals’ previous trade targets (Denard Span of the Twins, for example) becomes available at a lesser price.

Blue Jays, Josh Donaldson to table extension talks

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Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the Blue Jays and third baseman Josh Donaldson are tabling extension talks as the two sides weren’t able to build any momentum towards agreement on a new contract.

Donaldson said, “We’re not quite there. That, to me, right now is not the major focus and I’m turning the page.” He added, “I want to play this season and really focus on winning games because, ultimately, our goal is to win a World Series and I don’t want to hinder that at all.” Donaldson also said he expects to hit free agency.

The 32-year-old avoided arbitration with the Blue Jays last month, agreeing on a $23 million salary for the 2018 season. He’s a free agent at season’s end. Last year, the three-time All-Star hit .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs, 78 RBI, and 65 runs scored in 496 plate appearances. Donaldson missed six weeks in the first half with a calf injury, but was able to return and post terrific numbers, so his health — at least that aspect of it — shouldn’t be a concern going into spring training.

If Donaldson does reach free agency, he’ll join a star-studded group that will likely also include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Charlie Blackmon, and A.J. Pollock.