WASHINGTON (AP) -Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten acknowledges his club needs to get better, and he will head into this offseason with the same philosophy he's always had: Making trades is preferable to signing free agents.
``We know we need to acquire players. There's no mistake about that. We want to add players to this team next year. I don't know how we do it,'' Kasten said Wednesday. ``Perhaps it's free agency, but more likely, I think, it would be through trades, either with veterans on the major league level or with prospects. We are not averse to trading prospects.''
Heading into Wednesday night's game against the Mets, the Nationals were 68-83 and fourth in the NL East, 15 1/2 games behind New York. Washington entered the day three games ahead of fifth-place Florida; the Nationals are trying to end a string of three consecutive last-place finishes.
``Our goal this year wasn't so much about standings,'' Kasten said, ``but what can we do to build a champion.''
He hailed the progress made at the minor league level in 2007, but did note that at Triple-A Columbus, ``There's no obvious help ready to come in here for next season.''
And while Kasten called the Nationals' showing this season ``much better than anticipated,'' he also made sure to add: ``Do not for a minute think I'm happy with where we are. We have very far yet to go. We absolutely do. We recognize that more than anyone.''
Which is why the Nationals will look elsewhere.
``There are three ways to acquire players. One, the most efficient way, is develop them yourself. The second-best way is through trades,'' Kasten said. ``The least efficient way - and the last resort, I think - is free agency.''
Team revenues will rise with the opening of a new stadium in 2008 - it will be known as ``Nationals Park'' until a naming rights deal is secured - but Kasten wouldn't say how much payroll would increase.
Washington's 2007 opening day payroll of about $37 million ranked 28th in the 30-team major leagues.
He and general manager Jim Bowden have praised rookie manager Manny Acta's work this season, but Kasten declined to say whether one or both of the one-year options on Acta's two-year contract would be picked up.
Kasten left no doubt about Bowden's status, saying: ``The general manager is here, period.''

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