Washington Nationals’ General Manager Mike Rizzo told reporters at the GM Meetings last month that he was happy with the middle infield depth in the organization and didn’t see second base as one of the positions the team needed to shore up this winter as they build the roster for 2019 and beyond.
“We like our situation in the middle of the infield with Trea [Turner] and Howie [Kendrick] and [Wilmer] Difo and [Carter] Kieboom in the wings,” Rizzo explained, as quoted by the Washington Post’s Jesse Dougherty, pointing to the expected everyday shortstop (Turner), and top options for second base at the moment (Difo/Kendrick) as well as the top infield prospect in the organization, Kieboom, who’s come up as a shortstop but played second out in the Arizona Fall League as the Nationals try to get him comfortable there if it end up being where he has to play when he’s eventually called up.
“We got [Luis] Garcia in the wings that we don’t feel is far away. We like our depth there; we really like the ability level there,” Rizzo added.
“We’ve got some extreme high-ceiling players that we think are going to be really good performers for us, and we got several of them. So I think that it’s not a necessity for us, or a need for us. It would have to be something that we thought was a good value to us.”
According to a report by MLB.com’s Jon Morosi on Monday, the Nats are, in fact, out there in search of a “good value” at second base if they can find one.
Morosi listed the Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, and the Nationals as teams who have, “... had at least preliminary talks with DJ LeMahieu, the free-agent second baseman and 2016 National League batting champion.”
The Nationals, Morosi notes (without mentioning Difo), “have the option of utilizing Howie Kendrick in an everyday role at second base, but he’s coming off a season in which he did not play after May 19 because of a torn right Achilles tendon.”
LeMahieu, who did not receive a qualifying offer from the Colorado Rockies, for whom he played from 2012-18 after debuting in the majors with the Chicago Cubs in 2011, put up a .276/.321/.428 line, with 32 doubles, 15 homers, and 86 wRC+ in 120 games and 581 plate appearances for the Rockies in 2018, over which he was worth 2.0 fWAR.
Among qualified NL second baseman, LeMahieu had the highest fielding percentage (.993), fewest errors (4), highest Defensive Runs Saved (18 DRS), and highest Ultimate Zone Rating (11.0 UZR).
LeMahieu is coming off a 1-year/$8.5M deal with the Rockies after avoiding arbitration last winter.
MLBTraderumors.com predicted the 30-year-old infielder gets something in the range of a 2-year/$18M deal this winter, while Fancred’s Jon Heyman had him getting a little more (3-year/$39M, or $13M per).
Will Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office add an infielder if he’s available for that sort of money? How big will the fact that there is no draft pick compensation tied to LeMahieu end up being? Do you think the Nats need to upgrade at second base this winter or do you trust Difo and Kendrick (assuming he’s healthy) to share the duties at second with an option like Kieboom in the wings if he’s needed at some point?