Rumors continue to surround Nationals

Rumors continue to surround Nationals

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Nationals didn't get any deals done on Wednesday, but there were strong rumors circulating about the team at Disney World's Dolphin Hotel.

Outfielder Ryan Church continues to be the hottest commodity, and there was word that the Nationals and the Phillies were talking about a deal that would send Church to Philadelphia for right-hander Ryan Madson.

But two sources familiar with both teams said the Nationals were not interested in Madson, whom Washington feels would not be a good fit. The Nationals were looking at left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who was considered the Phillies' top pitching prospect. But he is expected to be the player to be named later in a trade that sent right-hander Freddy Garcia from the White Sox to the Phillies on Wednesday night.

Last season, Gonzalez, 21, was 7-12 with a 4.56 ERA at Triple-A Reading, but he had 166 strikeouts in 154 innings.

The Phillies are looking for a reserve outfielder to replace David Dellucci, who signed with the Indians, and Church could solve their dilemma. If Church was a member of the Phillies, he could possibly platoon with Jeff Conine in left field. Philadelphia is trying to trade left fielder Pat Burrell.

An opposing general manager felt it would be hard for the Nationals to trade Church, because they are asking for teams' top Minor Leaguers, and Church is not considered a player with superstar potential.

Church is already 28 and has played only one full season in the Major Leagues. He has a reputation of not playing hurt and lacking energy on the field sometimes.

Last season, Church spent most of the time in the Minor Leagues, but he finished the season strong in the big leagues, going 40-for-131 (.305) with six home runs and 24 RBIs in his last 50 games. However, he went into the team's doghouse after he refused to play in the Mexican Winter League to work on hitting breaking balls on the outside part of the plate. Church didn't go under the advice of his agent, Jeff Borris.

Another story that was circulating at the hotel was that the Orioles and Nationals were involved in discussions about a three-way deal that would send starter Rodrigo Lopez to Washington. But two sources said that while Lopez was talked about, no serious offer was on the table. One source added that a three-way deal was never discussed. Another person said the two teams were just throwing names around, but that's as far as it went.

If the Nationals were to acquire Lopez, it would go against what they are trying to do, which is acquire young prospects, especially on the pitching side. Lopez will be 31 next week and is coming off his worst season in five full years in the big leagues, going 9-18 with a 5.90 ERA. Lopez made $375,000 in 2006 and is eligible for arbitration.

Nationals general manager Jim Bowden declined to talk about any players or rumors involving the team.

"We have proposals out there, and we are waiting to hear back and vice-versa," Bowden said. "I'm not going to talk about any specifics. ... I'm not going to confirm or deny on any of our players."

Because of the big spending on the free-agent market, Bowden sees trades being made later in the offseason. Right now, according to Bowden, teams don't want to give up anything.

"We have had plenty of discussions," he said. "All it will take is for somebody to say, 'OK.' I'm not going to predict if we are going to make a trade [before the Winter Meetings end]."

With no deals close to being completed, Bowden talked about preparing for the Rule 5 Draft, which will be held on Thursday morning. Bowden said Washington would take the best player available.

In other news, Manny Acta said one of the first calls he made after being named the Nats' manager was to first baseman Larry Broadway, who has been in the Minor Leagues since being drafted out of Duke in 2002.

Acta was impressed with Broadway in 2004, when the left-handed hitter had a solid Spring Training for the Expos.

"[When I came to the Nationals], one of my first questions was, 'How is Larry Broadway doing?'" Acta said. "I had a lasting impression of him when he first came up and worked out in Spring Training with us, and I know he had an injury to his knee. Apparently, he's back on track."

Last season, Broadway hit .288 with 15 home runs and 78 RBIs for Triple-A New Orleans.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.