WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have expressed interest in free agent outfielder Sammy Sosa, according to a baseball source.
General manager Jim Bowden was scheduled to have preliminary discussions with Sosa's agent, Tom Reich, in Melbourne, Fla., but had to postpone the meeting because he and manager Frank Robinson are getting ready to hire their coaching staff, an announcement that is scheduled to be made in the next 48 to 72 hours.
This is not the first time the Nationals have tried to acquire Sosa's services. Last February the Cubs almost traded Sosa to Washington for outfielder Terrmel Sledge and infielder Brendan Harris, but ended up trading him to the Orioles for infielders Jerry Hairston and Mike Fontenot, and right-hander Dave Crouthers.
Bowden was not available for comment, but according to the source, the Nationals are willing to give Sosa, 37, a chance provided that he accepts an invitation to Spring Training, not the one-year deal that has been reported. Sosa's last good season was in 2003, when he hit 279 with 40 home runs and 103 RBIs and guided the Cubs to the National League Championship Series against the Marlins.
Sosa had the worst year of his career playing for the Orioles last season, hitting .221 with 14 home runs and 45 RBIs. He twice spent time on the disabled list, because of an abscess and staph infection on the bottom of his left foot, and a lesion under his right big toenail.
The Nationals look at Sosa as insurance in case Jose Guillen's injured left shoulder has not fully recovered and in the event Alfonso Soriano refuses to play the outfield and takes part in the World Baseball Classic.
If Sosa were to make the team out of Spring Training, the Nationals could have an outfield of Guillen (left field), Soriano (center) and Sosa, and Marlon Byrd, Ryan Church and Michael Tucker would become the outfield reserves. Brandon Watson, currently the leading candidate to start in center field, would likely begin the season at Triple-A New Orleans.
Sosa is one of the most prolific home run hitters in recent memory. He is the only player have three 60-homer seasons and is best known for battling Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire for the home run title in 1998. McGwire ended up with 70, and Sosa ended up with 66.
Sosa is 12 homers away from career No. 600.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.