WASHINGTON -- The Nationals wanted free agent Milton Bradley to be their center fielder in 2009, but they found out on Monday that the switch-hitter elected to sign with the Cubs.
The Nationals did not give a reason why Bradley rejected their offer, which was reported to be for three years and $30 million. He is the second free agent to bypass Washington. On Dec. 23, Mark Teixeira decided to sign with the Yankees, even though Washington made a nine-year, $180 million offer.
With Bradley out of the picture, don't look for Washington to acquire Andruw Jones or Mark Kotsay. According to baseball sources, the Nationals have decided to let Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge compete for the center-field job.
Of the two, Dukes is the better defender, but there are health issues. This past season, Dukes went on the disabled list three times because of right leg problems. When he was on the field, however, Dukes was arguably Washington's best player, hitting .264 with 13 home runs, 44 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in 81 games.
Milledge was the Nationals' everyday center fielder last year, but a lot of people in the organization believe he is a corner outfielder, because he has problems going back on balls and a weak arm.
Milledge, however, proved that he could handle the bat, hitting .300 with seven home runs and 29 RBIs after being activated from the disabled list on July 23.
Meanwhile, free agents Adam Dunn and second baseman Orlando Hudson remain the Nationals' top targets.
The team is looking for a first baseman to replace Nick Johnson, and Dunn can play the position, as well as the outfield. Besides hitting home runs and getting on base, Dunn has stayed healthy during his eight-year career. Johnson, on the other hand, has been on the disabled list almost every year of his career.
The Nationals look at Hudson as a clubhouse leader and a person who could solve their problems at second base and the leadoff spot.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.