On any given day in the upcoming season, Washington Nationals’ shortstop Trea Turner could be turning double plays with Starlin Castro, Howie Kendrick, or Asdrúbal Cabrera, and that’s by design. The infield depth GM Mike Rizzo and Co. assembled this offseason will give manager Davey Martinez options when he writes out his lineups.
“It’s by design that we give our manager flexibility to do what he feels comfortable with that given day,” Rizzo explained earlier this winter.
“It’s a long season. We needed about 48 players last year to win the world title, and this thing takes a village, and it takes a lot of players, and you have to have great depth, and you have to have players that are willing to accept the challenge of being versatile, and using multiple lineups, and Davey has grown up in that atmosphere. He did it last year with us a lot, Chicago was known for it, as was Tampa, so he’s very familiar with it, and the way he can manipulate lineups, and keep people fresh, I think you saw last year was masterful.”
Brian Dozier (123 games), Cabrera (31), and Kendrick (23) handled the bulk of the duties at second in 2019, with Cabrera playing third and first as well after he signed with the Nats in August. Kendrick played first, second, and third. Both re-signed with the Nationals over the winter.
Castro, who played second, third, and short in Miami last season, joined the Nationals on a 2-year/$12M deal. He’s expected to spend most of his time at second this season, but he is also a possibility at third base, as the defending World Series champs try to find a way to reproduce Anthony Rendon’s production.
“It’s going to be different not having Tony,” Turner told reporters at WinterFest in January, when he was asked about the roster losses and additions this winter.
”But for me I think it’s nice to have those veterans. Those veterans that can go through a long season, all those ups and downs. We had it last year, and I think that’s definitely a reason why we won, especially coming from where we came from with that bad start. I think you need those guys are your team, and I love the guys that we’ve signed, I think they’re going to contribute a lot and looking forward to getting to know them and meet them and go to battle.”
All the movement around him in the infield, Turner said, is not a concern, especially with the veterans around the infield.
Once they get to know one another a little in Spring Training, he said, it’s going to be fine.
“I think it’s going to be pretty easy when you’ve got a veteran core or group around you, it’s not going to be really a learning experience for the most part, it’s going to be like, ‘What do you like? Okay, let’s get it done.’ It’s going to be — I feel like - a short conversation. We did a little bit last year with Dozier, Asdrúbal, and Howie. This year it’s some different faces, but same thing, I think those guys are professionals, so it’s going to be pretty easy, it’s just a matter of getting the work in in Spring Training and we’ll do plenty of that.”
“I think it’s a team that’s certainly battle-tested, there’s still a great veteran presence to us,” Rizzo added at another point in his talk with reporters at WinterFest, “... but there’s some youth sprinkled in there and I think that’s the great combination that we have here is depth and veteran presence.”
Tim Bogar, who coached first for each of the last two seasons in D.C., and is moving back to the dugout as Martinez’s bench coach this time around, has worked with the infielders in the nation’s capital as well, and the depth they’ve assembled, he said, will be a strength.
“I think it’s actually — it’s not a bad thing that you can have guys that can move all over the infield,” Bogar explained. “With the way people shift and move all over the field anyway, you’re not usually playing your own certain spot as in the past, so having guys that are versatile [is] really good. And obviously I know Howie, I know Asdrúbal, I mean, I’ve seen Castro play now for how many years, so I know them all really, really well. So it’s going to be a little bit of a challenge, but actually I think it’s going to be good for all of them to kind of move around and stay fresh and do things and give Davey opportunities to do a lot of different things, and when you have that opportunity, usually good things happen, so excited about it.”
Asked how he thinks Turner will handle the shifting double play partners, Bogar said that it really won’t be anything new.
“The one thing I think Trea is ahead of the game in is last year he had so many second base partners, so it’s not like he’s had one person with him all the time, except to his right where Tony was standing. And I think it’s just an adjustment that you make before the game and understanding who’s over there, what their ability-level is, what balls they get to and what balls they don’t. Trea is a smart man, he understands the game, he understands how these guys can play. He’ll use that very well, and I think he’ll adjust, and I think the best thing about this is Trea is a really good communicator, so being able to talk to those guys before the game, and as we’re practicing in Spring Training, and as the season goes on, they’ll get used to each other.”