According to multiple reports on Tuesday, the Washington Nationals signed recently-turned 29-year-old infielder Jeimer Candelario (JAY-mer can-duh-LAR-ee-oh) to a 1-year/$5M free agent deal, adding the Chicago Cubs’ signee and former Detroit Tigers’ third baseman (1B/DH) to the mix in D.C.
Candelario, who turned 29 earlier this month, is coming off a .217/.272/.361, 19 double, 13 home run, -0.1 fWAR campaign with the Tigers in which he played in 124 games and made 467 plate appearances.
In 2021, the New York-born Candelario, who signed with Chicago back in 2010 out of the Dominican Republic, and was traded to Detroit in 2017, put up a .271/.351/.443 line with a total of 42 doubles and 16 home runs in 149 games and 626 PAs in a (team-high) 3.9 fWAR season.
In 2020’s 60-game campaign, the infielder hit 11 doubles and seven home runs in 52 games and 206 PAs in a 1.2 fWAR run.
Candelario and the Tigers avoided arbitration when they agreed on a 1-year/$5.8M deal last winter, and he was projected to get a raise to around $7M for 2023 before the Tigers made the decision to non-tender him earlier this month, reportedly offering, “to sign the longtime third baseman to a one-year deal at a cheaper rate than his projected salary,” as reported by Detroit Free Press writer Evan Petzold, who broke the news on the signing with the Nats.
Source: Former #Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario and the Nationals are in agreement on a one-year contract.— Evan Petzold (@EvanPetzold) November 29, 2022
“The two sides negotiated but didn’t get close to an agreement,” Petzold added.
The seven-year veteran dealt with a left shoulder subluxation last season, and struggled to hit the fastball, putting up a .244 AVG on heaters, which was down from .296 in ‘21 and his .356 AVG on fastballs in 2020.
His .177 AVG on breaking pitches was in line with what he’d done in previous seasons, while his .200 AVG on offspeed pitches was down from .290 in ‘21 and .303 in 2020.
Confirming @EvanPetzold’s report that the Nationals and Jeimer Candelario are in agreement on a one-year deal.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) November 29, 2022
Candelario hit .364 on four-seamers in 2020, and .282 in 2021, but that average fell to .212 last season.
“The switch-hitter posted a 23.3% strikeout rate,” the Detroit Free Press writer noted when the Tigers non-tendered the infielder last week, “consistent with his career average, and a career-worst 6.0% walk rate, much worse than his 9.6% career average. He also had a career-worst 33.5% chase rate, and his 80 wRC+ — a measurement of his overall offensive production — ranked 27th among 28 third basemen with at least 400 plate appearances.”
“He is still a very talented player,” Tigers’ president of baseball operations Scott Harris said at the GM Meetings, as quoted in the Detroit Free Press:
“But as we look to create a collection of position players that really fit together, one advantage that he has is he’s a switch-hitter, so that helps give him more opportunities to find his way into the lineup.”
Candelario gets $5M plus $1M incentives in Nats deal @EvanPetzold 1st on team— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 29, 2022
Defensively, at third base, Candelario finished at -1 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) last season, after finishing at -3 DRS in ‘21 and +2 DRS in 2020.
His Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) went from 3.4 in 2019 to 0.5 in 2020, -6.1 in 2021, and up to 0.2 last season, with his fielding% at .976 and .961 in the last two years.
Where will he fit in with the Nationals, who have Carter Kieboom coming back from Tommy John surgery and expected to compete for the third base job along with veteran Ildemaro Vargas, who re-signed with the club on a one-year deal earlier this month after playing third base for the club over the last two months of the 2022 season?
UPDATE: The Nationals made the deal with Candelario official on Tuesday afternoon (though not the details), and the club also announced a deal with 27-year-old outfielder Stone Garrett, who, “... hit .276 with eight doubles, four homers, 10 RBI, three walks, three stolen bases and 13 runs scored in 27 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2022 after making his Major League debut on August 17 against San Francisco,” as the club noted in a press release on the deals.
Garrett, a 2014 8th Round pick by Miami’s Marlins, signed on with Arizona as a free agent in 2021, and put up a .276/.309/.539 over the last two-plus months of the 2022 season.