LAS VEGAS -- Although everything was quiet on Monday, Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said he and his staff were busy exploring trades with at least four teams during the first day of the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. The Nats also met with representatives regarding certain free agents.
Bowden didn't say which teams he was dealing with or which free agents he was interested in, but one thing is certain: The Nationals are going after offense, which was the reason the club lost 102 games, a couple of starters and bullpen help.
Bowden is loaded with outfielders he could trade. However, Lastings Milledge is the only logical choice to be dealt because he is only regular who ended the season healthy.
"We are exploring a lot of possibilities," Bowden said. "I think, obviously, we would like to have a big left-handed bat in the middle of our lineup. So that's a priority. We want to continue to add starting pitching and bullpen. I would say that most of our discussions were for those three areas."
It's not a secret who the Nationals are looking at as far as the left-handed bat is concerned. Switch-hitting first baseman Mark Teixeira is their top target, and it has been reported that the club has already made an offer to Teixeira. Washington is also competing with the Orioles, Yankees and Angels for his services.
Bowden declined to say how the negotiations were going, but a baseball source said that Teixeira wants more than the eight-year, $153 million deal that Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera received last Spring Training.
Bowden also said that free agents will not be turned off by the fact that Washington had the worst record in baseball this past season.
"We want players that are young and in their prime. If we sign them, they will be part of us winning," Bowden said. "If we have a long-term commitment on a player, it's not going to be a stopgap of a signing. It's someone that could help us long-term.
"We have one of the finest ballparks in baseball. The free agents realize we are located in the most powerful city n the world. Geographically, players want to be there. They also understand that if they come here, we may not be a team ready to win next year. Baseball people understand what we have done in scouting and developing. They understand our direction. They can see the vision of the young players that we are developing."
If the Nationals sign Teixeira, that would mean they would have to trade first baseman Nick Johnson, who missed most of last year because of a right wrist injury. Bowden said he expects Johnson to be 100 percent by Spring Training. Several clubs, including the Athletics, have interest in Johnson.
"A healthy Nick Johnson is a tremendous player," Bowden said. "He is a .400 on-base percentage player. He sees four pitches per at-bat. He is a plus defender. He gives you great at-bats. He is good in the clubhouse."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.