Thursday, 15 Nov 2018

Why do not Nationals consider upgrading second base as an out of season priority

Wilmer Difo, above, and veteran Howie Kendrick should be the short-term solution of the Nationals to second base. (John McDonnell / The Washington Post)

At the start of the baseball off-season, the Washington Nationals' agenda seemed clear: tackling Bryce Harper's situation, beefing up the corrector, adding a front-end or deep starter to the rotation and improving the receiver and the second. based.

But Mike Rizzo has already cut this list, the general manager of the Nationals said he was comfortable with what the team currently has in his list of candidates – a likely squad of veteran Howie Kendrick and the field player Wilmer Difo utility – and that the organization is already growing. the prospects of potentially playing there in the future.

"We like our situation in the middle of the field with Trea [Turner] and Howie and Difo and [Carter] Kieboom behind the scenes. We have [Luis] Garcia backstage who, in our opinion, is not far, said Rizzo last week at the meeting of baseball general managers in Carlsbad, California. "We love our depth there; we really like the level of ability there.

"We have some extremely extreme players that, in our opinion, will be very good for us, and we have many, so I think it's not a necessity for us, nor a need for us." to be something that we thought was good value for us. "

This does not prevent Rizzo from looking for a second baseman in the independent player market this winter, but that means the team no longer sees the situation as an urgent problem in 2019. Kendrick, a player from 35 years old with a .291 average batting average, missed almost all of last season with a torn Achilles tendon and will be back for the final year of his contract with the Nationals. Difo, a 26-year-old who can play both short and second base, has worked as a team on a daily basis, but has remained in a utilitarian role throughout his two full-league seasons. Then come Kieboom and Garcia, two of the brightest hopes of the Nationals, who, according to Rizzo, could easily move from the short stop (their natural position) to the second base.

Kieboom is 21, was named the Nationals' minor league year – round player in 2018, shone in the Arizona Fall League in October, and is expected to start next season with the Senators AA class from Harrisburg before having the chance to progress in the system. Rizzo said Wednesday that he hoped Kieboom would make his debut in the big leagues at one point in 2019. Garcia is a little behind Kieboom from a development standpoint; The 18-year-old has spent the season sailing in both levels of the A class and will likely spend the entire upcoming season in the miners.

But that's what everyone thought the fighter Juan Soto would do at the same time last year and he could now win the National League rookie on Monday. This does not mean that Kieboom or Garcia will experience the same historical success as Soto at 19, but it should be noted that Rizzo does not hesitate to give a chance to very young players. So, Kieboom and / or Garcia could have a chance at second base in the not too distant future, Kendrick and Difo probably holding the spot in the meantime.

"We like guys who can play short-stop because we think the transition is easier," Rizzo said last week. "So we feel that [Kieboom] can handle the position at the major league level, but Garcia and he will handle the move to second base, or third base, we think seamlessly. "

In mentioning the possibilities of Kieboom and Garcia in second and third base, Rizzo made one thing clear: the Nationals have no immediate intention to move Turner, their 25-year-old short who finished 2018 with highs career in home run (19) and RBI (73) and led the NL in stolen bases (43) while participating in all 162 games of the regular season. Third base is only in conversation because Anthony Rendon is not signed after 2019, but it is likely that he will sign a long-term agreement to lock this position in the foreseeable future.

This makes the second base a necessity for the Nationals in the short and long term, and Rizzo acknowledged that someone will have to change jobs for his plans to work.

If the Nationals could actually call on a free player for the second base player – though they seem much more likely to spend for a starting pitcher and receiver – the options include DJ LeMahieu, Jed Lowrie, Josh Harrison, Brian Dozier and Marwin Gonzalez. Gonzalez, who plays the switch, could make a lot of sense, as he occupies several positions and could also give the Nationals a left-handed option behind Ryan Zimmerman at first base.

However, it seems more likely, based on the assessment of what the Nationals already have with Rizzo, that they are holding out and using their resources elsewhere. Kendrick provides a right handed veteran stick, and Difo, who hit the switch, gave the Nationals bursts of energy, and even a little bit of power, if any. Difo will have to clean up the mental mistakes on the field and on the bases' lanes and reduce his batting shot to the plate if a duo with Kendrick is at work. If this is the case, at least enough for the Nationals to refrain from seeking a multi-year solution outside of the organization, it would seem that Kieboom will get the first push to position itself in the future.

Rizzo is quick to note that the Nationals still consider Kieboom as a short stopover, but that does not prevent it from being an option to the second goal. Kieboom played second in the Arizona Autumn League this year and was named All Star. He planned to work with players of former major baseball players and former baseball players during the offseason to refine his footwork around the bag while performing two rounds. After recent promotions by Soto, Victor Robles and starting pitcher Erick Fedde, the development of Kieboom has allowed the Nationals to see promising results where others might see a need.

"I think he'll get there very slowly. He's an athlete, a baseball guy, he has an extremely high IQ, and I do not see how that's a problem, the transition from a short stop to a second base, "said Rizzo about Kieboom. . "We still think of him as a shortstop, we think he is a daily stop-stop in the majors and he can handle that position. But we have a very good one right now and he's not going anywhere before. "

To learn more about The Post's national coverage:

Some mock $ 400 million for Bryce Harper. Here's how Scott Boras intends to get it.

The offer made by the nationals to Bryce Harper was the largest free agent contract in the history of American sport. And now?

A big success: Juan Soto, the surprise of the season of the Nationals, is here to stay

Fancy Stats: The rookie of the year in NL between Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna Jr. is incredibly tight


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