Look for Nationals to be active shoppers
Ken Rosenthal / FOXSports.com
Posted: 20 hours ago

Teams under new ownership often try to impress their fans by adding name talent.

The Nationals could do just the opposite, trading veterans for prospects before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.

The most likely to be moved: Right-hander Livan Hernandez and right fielder Jose Guillen.

The most pivotal figure: Left fielder Alfonso Soriano.

While new owner Ted Lerner might not retain general manager Jim Bowden, his group would be foolish to waste its first significant opportunity to improve the club, which spent years floundering under Major League Baseball's ownership.

Judging from the stated goals of incoming team president Stan Kasten — build from the ground up, achieve long-term success — the Nationals likely will use every method available to replenish their depleted farm system.

The team holds four of the top 70 picks in the June amateur draft, including Nos. 15 and No. 20. It could add perhaps another half-dozen players through trades — and Soriano, 30, is their most marketable talent.

The preferred option for the Nats might be to sign Soriano long-term, ensuring that he remains part of their core of 30-and-under players — right-hander John Patterson, 28, closer Chad Cordero, 24 and catcher Brian Schneider, 29; first baseman Nick Johnson, 27 and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, 21.

Though struggling now, Livan Hernadnez could prove valuable to a team in a pennant race. (Chris Trotman / Getty Images)

A trade, however, would make sense if Soriano wanted to become a free agent and return to second base with another club. It is unlikely that the Nats would trade second baseman Jose Vidro, who is guaranteed $7.5 million in 2007 and $8.5 million in '08 and possesses limited no-trade protection. Most contenders do not view second base as a primary need.

Once the Nationals' new owners take over — the sale is expected to be approved when major-league owners meet in New York on May 17-18 — the team will need to gauge Soriano's intentions to determine its next step.

A trade, however, would make sense if Soriano wanted to become a free agent and return to second base with another club. As a left fielder, Soriano would make sense for the Dodgers, Cardinals and Padres. The Angels, actively seeking hitter, have no obvious position for Soriano.

It is unlikely that the Nationals would clear Soriano's return to second by trading Jose Vidro, who is guaranteed $7.5 million in 2007 and $8.5 million in '08 and possesses limited no-trade protection. Most contenders do not view second base as a primary need.

At the very least, the Nationals seem likely to entertain offers for Guillen, 29, who is earning $4 million while awaiting free agency, and Hernandez, 31, who is guaranteed $8 million this season, $7 million in '07 and $8 million in '08.

Guillen wants to sign an extension with the Nationals, but he has a volatile history and could be an affordable short-term solution for a contender. Hernandez, 1-4 with a 6.52 ERA, will be in greater demand — a noted innings-eater, he could revive in a pennant race.

The Nats, though, also figure to consider other options. Johnson, under contract at $5.5 million per season from 2007-09, could attract interest from the Giants, A's and Angels, all of which are getting poor production at first base. Schneider, earning an average of $4.4 million from '07-'09, could appeal to the Phillies, Rockies and Angels, among other clubs.

Bowden, one of the game's most creative minds, is not afraid to make deals. He has been strongly linked to the Lerner group, though many in baseball believe that he would not mesh with Kasten.

Bowden also faces an additional obstacle — he recently was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in Miami. He pleaded not guilty.

An ownership taking its first stab at rebuilding. A G.M. making potentially his last stand.

Put it all together, and it should be a very interesting summer in Washington.

Ken Rosenthal is FOXSports.com's senior baseball writer.

Though struggling now, Livan Hernadnez could prove valuable to a team in a pennant race. Which is true should we try for him?? I would in a hearbeat