Bereft of speedster Jacoby Ellsbury, the Boston Red Sox are now showing “interest” in Washington Nationals outfielder Josh Willingham, according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark.

Boston had apparently been close to a deal with the Kansas City Royals for David DeJesus last week before the versatile outfielder landed on the disabled list for the remainder of the season. Additionally, the Red Sox have been connected to trade rumors involving the Philadelphia Phillies’ Jayson Werth and the Florida Marlins’ Cody Ross, who is no longer on the market due to an injury to Chris Coghlan.

With Werth a projected Type-A free agent and a mere rental at a steep price, the Red Sox appear to be losing interest in him and are instead turning their attention to Willingham, who is having a career year in Washington.

According to Stark, the Nationals are now interested in dealing either Adam Dunn or Josh Willingham, but not both. While Dunn might fetch more on the open market, the Nationals appear to be asking too much for their home run leader. Willingham is, therefore, the more likely to be traded.

As noted, Willingham is enjoying a career year that should earn him a serious pay increase, whether through negotiation or arbitration, and that economic factor could influence the decision of the modest-spending Nationals. So far this season, Willingham has hit .273 and posted an .880 OPS on the back of 15 homers.

While the Red Sox are certainly “interested” in Willingham, his acquisition would be somewhat surprising for a Boston team predicated on defense. Willingham is a below-average defender and could end up costing more money than Boston would likely want to commit to such a player.

At the same time, Willingham will hit free agency at the end of the 2011 season, so the financial ramifications could be short-lived.

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