The Washington Nationals are involved in serious discussions with the Colorado Rockies about a deal that would bring outfielder Preston Wilson to Washington, several sources said Friday. The Nationals would part with right-hander Zach Day and minor league outfielder J.J. Davis, though any deal hinges on how much of Wilson's $12.5 million salary Washington would pay.
One club source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because negotiations are ongoing, said the Nationals would be willing to pay $2.5 million for the remainder of the season. Another source said the Rockies are continuing to shop Wilson, hoping to find a suitor who will pay more money. Wilson becomes a free agent at the end of the season.
Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden, who was attending his grandmother's funeral Friday and didn't travel with the team to Citizens Bank Park, was unavailable to comment.
Bowden, who believes the first-place Nationals need more power, has inquired about Wilson since spring training but has turned down potential deals before, including one involving outfielder Ryan Church. Though Bowden repeatedly has said his priorities are "pitching, pitching, pitching," the deal for Day and Davis could make sense for both clubs.
Wilson is hitting .258 with 15 home runs and 47 RBI in 260 at-bats. Though there are concerns about his knees and his high strikeout rate, the Nationals are convinced he is healthy and could play center field, moving Brad Wilkerson to left and making the bench much deeper, with Church and Marlon Byrd as fourth and fifth outfielders.
Also, if first baseman Nick Johnson -- on the disabled list with a bruised heel -- continues to have health problems, as he has throughout his career, Wilkerson could play first base and the Church-Byrd platoon could return to left. Johnson is scheduled to come off the disabled list after the all-star break.
Wilkerson said before Friday's game in Philadelphia he would welcome playing left.
"I think it would be a big help," Wilkerson said. "Center field takes a lot out of you. You're running around a lot more. . . . As long as we can stay healthy enough to do that, I think it'd be great for me."
The trade wouldn't take away anybody from the Nationals' current roster, though it would further deplete the pitching. Day, who broke his right arm after being struck by a comebacker off the bat of Cincinnati's Ken Griffey Jr. on May 24, is on a minor league rehabilitation assignment with Class AA Harrisburg but appears nearly ready to return. He went just 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA in Washington this season, and felt Manager Frank Robinson lost confidence in him. Still, he has an effective sinker, a pitch that could be attractive to the Rockies, who play at homer-friendly Coors Field.
Davis, who began the season with the Nationals but hit .227 with seven strikeouts in 26 at-bats, likely would become a fourth outfielder with the Rockies. He is a tremendous fastball hitter, but has struggled with breaking pitches. Since being sent to Class AAA New Orleans on May 8, he is hitting .282 with 12 homers.
Because the deal wasn't complete Friday night, Nationals officials were working on creative ways to get Wilson, including a three-way deal that could involve Day going to the Chicago White Sox, who would in turn ship prospects and money to Colorado.