Nationals acquire Sean Burnett, Nyjer Morgan [update]

The Nationals have traded reliever Joel Hanrahan and outfielder Lastings Milledge to the Pirates for reliever Sean Burnett and outfielder Nyjer Morgan on Tuesday afternoon.

Morgan is considered the key to the deal for Washington. He was acquired to improve the team’s outfield defense, which is one of the worst in the National League.

The Nationals have been unhappy with their outfielders for quite some time. They have come to the come to the conclusion that Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham belong in the American League as designated hitters and Elijah Dukes makes too many fundamental  mistakes.

The Nationals see Morgan as a center fielder/leadoff hitter. Washington also likes his hockey attitude. He once played with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League during the 1999-2000 season.

Morgan, who will wear uniform No. 1, was playing left field and batting second for Pittsburgh. Entering Tuesday’s action, Morgan was hitting .277 with two home runs, 27 RBIs and 18 stolen bases.

The Nationals also get younger in the bullpen with Burnett on board. He will be a middle reliever for the team. Burnett appeared in 38 games and had a respectable 3.06 ERA for Pittsburgh.  The Nationals have not ruled out making him a starter, a role he had when he was drafted by the Pirates in the 2000 First-Year Player Draft. 

“We are open for business” said a happy Mike Rizzo, the Nationals’ acting general manager. “We improved two of our greatest needs. We have a great character guy in Morgan. We have our center fielder. Even though he will be 29 in two days, he plays better than most younger men.”  

Hanrahan and Milledge did not fit in the team’s long-term plans. Hanrahan lost his job as a closer twice because he was often hit hard. Most people in the organization felt that his fastball was too straight and he relied too much on his slider.

Lack of defense and inconsistency at the plate are the reasons Milledge has been in the Minor Leagues since mid-April. In seven games, Milledge was 4-for-24 with an RBI for the Nationals.

It also didn’t help that Milledge was late for a meeting the day before Opening Day in Miami.

According to sources, both Rizzo and manager Manny Acta threatened Milledge with a trip back to the Minor Leagues. The team ended up sending him down on April 14.

Rizzo is far from done in terms of making deals. He is looking for a starting shortstop.  The Nationals feel that Cristian Guzman, who is on the trade block, has lost a few steps with his glove.

The Nationals are alarmed that Guzman is having a difficult time getting ground balls to his left.

The Nationals want young starting pitching in return for Guzman, who has one year left on his contract.

The team doesn’t have to acquire a shortstop — at least for the rest of the season. It can go with Alberto  Gonzalez, who is hitting .326 with a home run and 12 RBIs.

The team is also looking to trade Dukes, and that may be hard to do because he comes with a lot of off-the-field baggage. Who they want for Dukes is not known. Dukes is capable of hitting a lot of home runs and getting a lot of outfield assists.

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