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Nats inquire about A. Jones, Patterson

Nats inquire about A. Jones, Patterson

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have inquired about center fielders Andruw Jones and Corey Patterson recently, and the team is expected to have dialogue with their agent, Scott Boras, at the Winter Meetings, which begin on Monday in Nashville, Tenn.

The Nationals are looking for a center fielder, and Jones or Patterson could solve this specific need.

Jones ended up having one of his worst seasons in the big leagues in 2007, hitting .222, but he managed to hit 26 homers and drive in 94 runs for the Braves. From June 22 to July 5, Jones' batting average was hovering below the Mendoza line.

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But Boras indicated that Jones shouldn't have any problems in the free-agent market. Boras would not say what type of contract Jones is looking for.

"There have been a number of teams and contacts about Andruw, and [last season is] something that teams talk about," Boras said by phone. "But when you look at a player's worst year for a Gold Glove center fielder, he has [logged] 1,300 innings on the field for 10 years in a row. No one in the game has [done that]. He had 26 home runs and 94 RBIs, which puts him in the top five ... among center fielders. He had his worst season.

"In the last five years, Andruw has averaged 34 home runs and 109 RBIs. He is only 30 years old. He has numbers that no center fielder in the game has."

Patterson could be a cheaper alternative if Washington can't sign Jones. Patterson also could be the leadoff hitter that the Nationals are looking for. The leadoff spot proved to be a disaster for the team in 2007. Players batting leadoff hit a combined .243 with 11 home runs and 57 RBIs.

An eight-year veteran, the left-handed-hitting Patterson, 28, is an excellent center fielder and is considered a streaky hitter. He hit .269 with eight home runs and 45 RBIs for the Orioles in 2007. His best season was in 2004, when he set career highs in home runs, RBIs and runs scored with the Cubs.

Patterson's biggest accomplishment is that he cut down on his strikeouts significantly. After averaging 124.7 strikeouts in his last four years with the Cubs, Patterson averaged only 79.5 whiffs during his two years with the Orioles.

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"[Patterson] is a brilliant athlete," Boras said. "He is a young guy. For a young team that is looking to develop great physical athletes, who can run, throw, hit and hit with some power, Corey Patterson falls into that group."

Sources have indicated that the Nationals have interest in Phillies center fielder Aaron Rowand, but Rowand said on Wednesday that he heard hardly anything from the Nationals.

"I'm sure they made contact [through my agent], but it's still early in the process," Rowand said. "When the Winter Meetings start, things start heating up."

In other news, the Nationals need help off the bench, and infielder Aaron Boone could be a great fit. However, Nats assistant general manager and Boone's father, Bob Boone, said his son may want to look at a place where he would start the season as a utility player and then start playing on a regular basis, which happened with the Marlins last year.

Boone played in 69 games for Florida and hit .286 with five home runs and 28 RBIs. He was playing on a regular basis at first base before a left knee injury in late June put him out for the rest of the season. Boone's father said the infielder's knee is 100 percent healthy.

"I think he would really help our club with his ability to play all the infield positions," the elder Boone said. "When you go and build your bench, you want to have people where [you don't have much of a fall-off]. When you look at it that way, Aaron fits the bill. There are so many things we have to put together [in other areas of the team] before that would happen."

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

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