Reports from the 2018 Winter Meetings in Las Vegas on Monday had Washington’s Nationals kicking the tires on some second basemen and considering further additions to the rotation and bullpen as they build their roster for the 2019 campaign.
Even after adding Patrick Corbin on a 6-year/$140M deal last week, the Nationals, according to Fancred’s Jon Heyman, are still looking to add a starter, reliever, and second baseman.
Heyman pointed to DJ LeMahieu, Marwin Gonzalez, and Josh Harrison as players of interest to the Nationals.
MASN’s Mark Zuckerman qualified that a source told him that the, “... Nationals are targeting players who could see time at both first and second base,” as a way to fill the need for a bat off the bench who could back up at first base, and an infielder as insurance in spite of the team’s comments about the options at second base already on the roster: Howie Kendrick, Wilmer Difo, Carter Kieboom, and Luis Garcia, being enough.
Rizzo’s current take on the situation at second base?
“I don’t see it as a big priority,” Rizzo explained when he met with reporters in Las Vegas at the end of the first day of the Winter Meetings. “I feel comfortable with where we’re at with that particular position. There is a glut of free agent possibilities out there, a lot of good players, but we never rule anything out and if there is a value that we feel is worthwhile we’ll certainly explore it.”
He 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, earning a total of $8.5M after avoiding arbitration.
MLBTraderumors.com’s free agent predictions have the above-average defender, who has played the majority of his games at second base, getting a 2-year/$18M deal this winter.
Gonzalez, 29, is coming off a .247/.324/.409, 25 double, 16 home run, 104 wRC+, 1.6 fWAR campaign in Houston, earning $5.125M after the Astros exercised a club option for 2018.
Gonzalez did not receive a qualifying offer from the ‘Stros after playing in 145 games and making 542 plate appearances last season.
MLBTraderumors.com has him getting something close to get a 4-year/$36M deal in free agency.
Gonzalez has played all four infield and all three outfield positions in his career, with most of his time at short and first base.
Harrison, 31, finished the 2018 campaign at .250/.293/.363, with 13 doubles, eight home runs, and 78 wRC+ in 97 games and 374 PAs, over which he was worth 0.3 fWAR in the final year of a 4-year/$27.3M deal, after which the Pirates declined an option that would have paid him $10.5M after he earned $10M last season.
Will the Nationals add a utility infielder to the mix this winter? Will they find an option who can cover second, if necessary, and back Ryan Zimmerman up at first?
As for the bullpen? Rizzo didn’t talk about potential rotation additions, but he was asked last night about adding a left-hander to the back end of the Nationals’ bullpen.
“That’s a position that we would consider and think about. We like the lefties that we have right now. [Matt Grace] had a terrific year for us, and we think [Sammy] Solis is a bounce-back candidate. His stuff is too good to get hit around like lefties were hitting him this year, so we’re going to make adjustments with him and see what we’ve got, but we’re not going to rule that out.”
Grace, 29, finished 2018 with a 2.87 ERA, a 3.40 FIP, 13 walks (1.96 BB/9), 48 Ks (7.24 K/9), and a .237/.285/.354 line against in 59 2⁄3 IP (.256/.305/.315 vs LHBs, and .225/.272/.379 against RHBs).
Solis, 30, signed a 1-year/$850,000 deal with the Nationals last month coming off a 2018 campaign which saw him post a 6.41 ERA, 4.92 FIP, 18 walks (4.12 BB/9), 44 Ks (10.07 K/9), and .277/.367/.490 line against in 39 1⁄3 innings (with a .224/.337/.382 line against vs RHBs and a brutal .329/.398/.595 line against vs LHBs).
Grace and Solis are two of only three left-handed relievers on the 40-Man roster at the moment (along with closer Sean Doolittle, of course). Do the Nationals need to add an option to the mix? Do they need a high-end lefty at the back of the bullpen, more of a situational left-hander?
As Rizzo explained it on Monday, the Nationals made a number of moves early this Winter, adding Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal to the bullpen, adding Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes to shore up the catching, and signing Corbin to a rotation that already includes a few righties in Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Tanner Roark. They’re not going to stop there, however.
“We were aggressive early on because I think the players that were available at the time fit really well for us,” Rizzo said, “so we checked off a lot of the things that we were looking for early, and I’m not saying that we’re going to wait for the market to come to us, because we hate to react to the market, we’re going to be proactive and look for opportunities and see if we can better ourselves.”