As of Saturday afternoon, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said that he hadn’t closed the door on the possibility of signing free agent Josh Donaldson.
Any possibility of that happening officially ended on Tuesday night when the 34-year-old, 10-year veteran reportedly agreed to a 4-year/$92M deal with the Minnesota Twins.
So how will the Nationals fill the hole at third base left by Anthony Rendon’s departure to LA on a 7-year/$245M free agent deal with the Angels?
BREAKING: Per source, 3B Josh Donaldson has agreed to a four-year deal with the Minnesota Twins.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) January 15, 2020
Donaldson’s deal with the Twins is four years and $92 million guaranteed ($23 million AAV), per source. The deal includes a fifth-year club option that could bring the total to $100 million. It’s the second-biggest deal in history for a player age 33 or older.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) January 15, 2020
“We don’t see it as a hole, we see it as a strength,” Rizzo said during the Nats’ WinterFest celebration this past weekend.
“We’ve got a lot of versatility. Of course you’re not going to replicate or replace Anthony Rendon, his numbers on the field, his presence in the clubhouse, and the things he does in the community, but we’re going to be a different team. I think we’re going to be a very competitive team, and our goals haven’t changed, we’re here to win a World Series and that’s going to be our focus.”
Asked if he believed the club had the answer at third base was in the organization already, Rizzo said they thought they did.
“We think we do. We like our versatility, we like our depth at the position, and we’ve got a good mixture of young players that are up and coming and veterans that have proven themselves and it’s given [manager] Davey [Martinez] a lot of tools to work with to keep the bench sharp and to keep the everyday players fresh.”
That depth, the tools Martinez will get to work with, currently includes a mix of veterans like Howie Kendrick, Asdrúbal Cabrera, and Starlin Castro, with top prospect Carter Kieboom an option at either second or third base depending on where the rest of players end up finding a home in the infield.
“We think we’re going to be solid at third base,” Rizzo said. “All of our options can play it very well. Kieboom is unproven there at the big league level, but he’s a competent shortstop and we feel comfortable from what we’ve seen in the minor leagues at third and at second with him, and of course Castro can do them both and Cabrera can play everywhere, so we feel good about it, we mix Howie in the mix somewhere, second, third, first, and we feel good about where we’re at.”
Martinez was asked at the Winter Meetings if he’d be comfortable taking Kieboom north as part of his everyday infield on Opening Day 2020.
“He’s going to get an opportunity to play this spring, so we’ll see where we’re at then,” the manager said.
Kieboom, 22, struggled in a brief stint as part of the big league infield early in 2019, but put together a solid season with the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate, and Rizzo said he’s confident that the first round pick in the 2016 Draft can contribute to the big league club in the near future.
“We feel that he’s going to be a really good player for us. A 21-year-old in the big leagues and then in Triple-A all season, that doesn’t happen very often and we feel good about where he’s at and we still think that he’s an everyday player in the big leagues that can hit in the middle of the lineups, and be a good big league player for many, many years to come.”
So is this it as far as the Nationals’ search for a third baseman this winter? MLB analyst Jon Heyman seems to think so:
Young Carter Kieboom looks like he’ll get a crack at replacing Rendon at 3B in DC. Nats don’t want to give up Robles for Bryant and likely don’t have the prospects for Bryant or Arenado.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 15, 2020