Not wanting to be hurt by Willingham again, the Nationals acquired the right-handed-hitting slugger and left-hander Scott Olsen from Florida for infielder Emilio Bonifacio, right-hander P.J. Dean and infielder Jake Smolinski in November.
General manager Jim Bowden said the deal was agreed upon during the annual General Managers Meetings, which was held this year in Dana Point, Calif.
MLB.com caught up with Willingham recently to talk about his career with the Marlins and future with the Nationals.
MLB.com: How surprised were you that you were traded to the Nationals last month?
Josh Willingham: I knew it was a good possibility for a lot of us who were arbitration-eligible. We knew the Marlins were going to scale down a little bit and cut some of their payroll. You just didn't know who was going to be gone. I would say my gut feeling was that I would not be traded. But it was a surprise. Not a huge one because you knew some of us would be traded.
MLB.com: Every year baseball experts underestimate the Marlins, but they are always competitive. Why do the Marlins fool the experts?
Willingham: When they do make a trade, it seems like it doesn't make sense because most of the players they trade are established big leaguers. But a lot of people don't know how the trades are going to pan out.
Fortunately for the Marlins, they make good trades and have good young talent over there. When that young talent gets to the big leagues, they are ready to compete and play every day. I also think the Marlins have done a great job in stockpiling pitchers via trades and the Draft.
MLB.com: While you were with the Marlins, you had great success against the Nationals. Why was that the case?
Willingham: I know I did well against them. I don't know if that was one of the reasons I was traded over there. I can't explain it. It's just one of those things where I hit those guys pretty well. I enjoyed playing at RFK and at Nationals Park.
MLB.com: As you know, there are a lot of outfielders on the Nationals' current roster. Did the Nationals give you any indication that you will be a regular in the outfield?
Willingham: I haven't talked to anyone about that specifically, but I really don't know why they would have traded for me if that wasn't their plan.
MLB.com: Since you play three positions -- left field, first base and behind the plate -- are you better suited in the outfield?
Willingham: Yes. That is the position I played the last three seasons exclusively. In the Minor Leagues, I played a lot of corner infield and, obviously, a lot behind the plate.
MLB.com: You missed a lot of games because of your back last year. How is it holding up now? Will you be ready for Spring Training?
Willingham: Oh, sure. My back gave me some problems last year. A lot of it was because of my stubbornness not to let it heal. I missed 25 games and tried to come back a little early and I cost myself 25 more games. I have to stay on top of my strengthening program.
MLB.com: What kind of season are you expecting to have in 2009?
Willingham: Well, when I have been healthy, starting in the Minor Leagues, the numbers have always been there. I'm going to hit for some power and drive in some runs. Last year, I ended up with 15 home runs and I lost 50 games. When I had 500-plus at-bats, the numbers have always been there -- 20-plus home runs and some RBIs. But my main goal is to stay healthy and be on the field for 150 games. The numbers will take care of themselves.
MLB.com: How much are you looking forward to living in Washington?
Willingham: When you come there on a road trip, you don't have a lot of time to check out the city, but I always enjoyed going there -- being in the nation's capital. The only two things I know about the city are the living situation and the ballpark. I think (I will live) in Arlington, Va. I've been there before. It's a nice area, especially for a family.
Obviously, the ballpark is beautiful and it's a great place to play. I know some of the players on a "Hey, how are you doing basis." But I'm looking forward to making new relationships.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.