The Washington Nationals awaited word last night on their potential deal for Colorado Rockies outfielder Preston Wilson, with club officials hoping they could complete the transaction in time to get Wilson to Milwaukee tomorrow for the first game following the all-star break. Meantime, the Nationals showed serious interest in left-handed reliever Mike Stanton, discarded by the New York Yankees, and he could be added to a tiring bullpen for the stretch run.
The hitch in the Wilson deal, a source said yesterday, remains the amount of money the Rockies would like the Nationals to pay on Wilson's contract. The amount is likely to be between $2 million to $2.5 million, the source said, but the clubs were discussing how best to structure the financial part of the deal. The Chicago Cubs also are pursuing Wilson.
The Nationals would send to Colorado pitcher Zach Day, who still is valued by some in the organization despite his 6.75 ERA this season, and minor league outfielder J.J. Davis, who began the season on the Washington roster.
Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden covets Wilson for his power potential. Hitting in the thin air at Denver's Coors Field, Wilson hit .258 with 15 homers and 47 RBI prior to the all-star break, with 10 of the homers and 34 of the RBI coming at home. He also has 77 strikeouts in 267 at-bats, ninth in the National League.
In parts of nine seasons with the New York Mets, Florida Marlins and Rockies, Wilson has hit .265 with 161 homers. His best year was 2003, his first in Colorado, when he homered 36 times and drove in 141 runs.
The Nationals likely would move Wilson to center field and -- in the short term -- Brad Wilkerson to first base, until starting first baseman Nick Johnson recovers from a badly bruised heel bone. When Johnson returns, Wilkerson would move to left field, and outfielders Ryan Church and Marlon Byrd -- who had been platooning in left before Church suffered a shoulder injury on June 22 -- would become key reserves.
Stanton, 38, was designated for assignment by the Yankees on June 30 after posting a 7.07 ERA in 28 appearances this season. In the past, he was a key member of the dominant Yankees bullpen, a lefty specialist who helped set up closer Mariano Rivera.
The Nationals, as well as the St. Louis Cardinals and the Florida Marlins, appear interested in Stanton because of his history as a proven left-hander with a 17-year career. The Nationals have only one lefty on their staff, veteran reliever Joey Eischen, and Stanton could add depth. Stanton likely would pitch almost exclusively to left-handed hitters, who hit .176 against him this season with the Yankees. Right-handed hitters posted a .478 average.
Should the Nationals successfully sign Stanton today, he could be available for the first game against Milwaukee. The Nationals likely will activate Church from the disabled list for that game. The club plans to place both second baseman Junior Spivey -- who broke the radius bone in his right forearm last weekend -- and infielder Tony Blanco, who is suffering from vertigo-like symptoms -- on the disabled list, moves that would clear room for Church and, possibly, Stanton.