Nationals Baseball: Offseason Position Discussion : Third Base

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Offseason Position Discussion : Third Base

Presumed Plan :  Ryan Zimmerman will play 3rd. Some combination of Lombardozzi and a signee or rookie will back him up as the Nats say bye to Chad Tracy.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Next year will be the 9th year Ryan Zimmerman will be the Nats 3rd baseman. (9th! I'm so old!) That's a long time at a position that is hard to fill. Offensively, the days of dreaming that Ryan would be an elite hitter are probably over but his current level (.281 / .348 / .464 ~ 25 homers a year) is more than acceptable. It's a clear step behind the best offensive 3rd basemen (Wright, Beltre, Longoria, Cabrera... ok several large steps behind him) but its a clear step ahead of the rest of the pack. He's a top 5 guy with little chance to be top 3, but little chance to fall out of the top 10. Defensively he spent the better part of 2013 getting over a yips problem which ended up hurting his range as he tried to compensate by playing shallower. This seemingly resolved over the last couple of months

Lombo - because see last few of these.

 Problems with Presumed Plan : Ryan is trending down a bit average wise. His fielding issues seem to come and go, so I doubt we've seen the last of them. His injury past is worrisome as he hasn't played a full season in 5 years. Rendon is better suited for 3rd and might have more of a chance to blossom in his natural position.

Lombo :I like Lombo least of all at 3rd base back-up because I think we can get more of an offensive threat here to back up Zimm. Plus he's busy filling in at 2nd and SS so we'll need someone else just in case the Nats get two injuries at the same time

My take : The Ryan plan is good. The average issue is something to look at but the the league is trending down so it's not as bad as it seems. His injury history is some concern but in 3 of the last 4 years he's missed 15-20 games. It's more than you'd like but it's not going to derail a season. One major injury since 2008? I can take that chance. As for the fielding, you just got to take it as it comes. He's a Top 3rd baseman. Sure maybe not in the discussion of the best overall anymore but still tons better than what you can find on the street these days. Rendon can get used to 2nd. If he can hack it the Nats need him more there.

Who for a back-up? You're going to have to lean one way with these 3B/1B guys and I think LaRoche will need the platoon guy, so I still advocate the Jeff Baker idea from 1B.  He'd be a pretty bad 3B though. If you are looking more at 3rd base guys who can hack it at first, Chavez would be ideal but he hits too well to be looking for a pure back-up role and this ain't gonna be a platoon (also as a lefty doesn't help out LaRoche). Youkilis would be an interesting long shot grab. A good PH possibility with nice patience, and the bench role might keep him healthy. Mark Reynolds would provide righty pop which would allow you to keep Tyler Moore off the roster.

Outside the Box Suggestion : For the sake of getting it done with, the hanging mostly in the box idea of Zimm to 1st, Rendon to 3rd, and sign Cano gets the play here. The reasoning in obvious. Cano is an huge offensive talent that gives the Nat the superstar bat they may be lacking (we'll see if Bryce explodes or Werth keeps it up). That also provides the Nats with a true upgrade from LaRoche as opposed to the "maybe we'll get more offense" other options floated around in LaRoche sits scenarios. And Cano is a good defender, right now. Of course the contract Cano will eventually sign is the sticking point but if money's no object, luxury tax be damned, this plan is the clearest path to success in 2014 and the few years after that.


Zimmerman11 said...

Harper, looking ahead the next couple of years of free agency... who is likely to be able to make a difference for the Nats besides Cano?

Unless Rizzo can make some kind of mega trade, isn't Cano the best opportunity for the Lerners to improve the team via FA? Given that, wouldn't it be better to stand pat and see if the current team can compete and maybe get a surprise out of the development system?

Znn, Des, Stras, Harp... all going to command big bucks. Have you looked outside the box, outside of this season?

Froggy said...

Agree with Z11's question and tweaking your outside the box scenario Harper a tiny bit, sign Cano for 5-6yrs at $30mil ea and you solve 2b issues, get a productive hitter, allow Rendon/ZNN (Walters?) to play 3b, and ZNN/LaRoche at first.

Regardless, ZNN plays almost everyday either at 3b or 1b and in the long run, when Cano's defense diminishes, you could move him to 1b.

I guess that is basically what you said, no?

Donald said...

I don't think 5-6yrs at $30mil lands Cano, which is why they should stay away. I don't think he'll get the 10ys at $30mil he's looking for, but 5-6 years down the road some team is going to be groaning over the weight of another 4 years of his massive salary.

blovy8 said...

Nothing much going on at 3rd, I think Rendon is the back up. Walters probably gets more 3B reps in AAA along with moving around the field. Cano is getting more than the Nats will ever offer and for more than six years.

Youkilis and Reynolds are nightmares there defensively.

blovy8 said...

The only thing that could change the calculus here given the recent past, is if there's a good player in late February who hasn't signed and was asking for too much.

Harper said...

Z11 - some SP (Garza, Santana, Nolasco, Kuroda) that might be better than going with rookies/Detwiler to fill out 4&5. OFs (Ellsbury, Choo, Beltran) but only if you move Werth to first or Span to bench. But none of these are Cano like impacts. I would get a SP (and a RP or two), but concentrate on bench and let the team play out as is.

I did suggest a Desmond for Adams/Martinez deal but I'll look at long term contracts more after positional stuff is done. I still think ZNN and Des will sign, Stras will be allowed to walk, Bryce is up to him.

Froggy - Really all my Outside the Boxes are looking to do something different (though not necessarily advisable) to make the Nats winners next year, but I'm not really looking beyond that. So I didn't say that but it makes sense.

Donald - yeah I don't think 5-6 at 30 does it. Guys like years more than dollars. I'm thinking 8 for 200-220 will be the final offer.

blovy8 - Youk when healthy and with time is usually just bad, not a nightmare. That's the best I can do. I think it they are smart they lock up everyone early. Stop looking for bargains. Start looking to win.

Anonymous said...

I haven't had a glimmer of a chance to see Matt Skole in the field. Is he a possibility for a year or two down the road at either corner? Or as a corner backup?

Strasburger said...

Gotta give Zim the benefit of the doubt on his Yips this season. First season back from the surgery. Give him another season and then judge him.

I agree on his offensive production, mostly, but I could see him jacking 25-35 homers this year, and batting closer to 300 than 280.

Still, at 2b I didn't especially like the regression I saw from Rendon this season, and I don't think he will break out until 2015.

This is Bryce's year to reall break out: If it's not, should we be worried?

Chaz R said...

As much as I would love to see Cano's bat in the lineup, I just don't think the Nats believe there is a place for him. I think they go with the current infield and upgrade the bench, to include a corner infielder that has some pop. Not sure who specifically is available or that could be made available through a trade that would fit that.

John C. said...

blovy8 is right - the backup option at 3b isn't Lombardozzi, it's Rendon. Although of course Lombo would go into the lineup at 2b at that point, so in a way he is the backup for Zim, at least in the lineup.

In the pipeline short term are Walters (who would shift over from SS) or Skole - remember that the reason that Skole shifted to 1b originally was because Rendon was playing 3b at Harrisburg and had a higher priority. He's still primarily a 3b (he's listed as a 3b in the AFL).

Long term the man to watch is Drew Ward. A 3d round pick this year out of HS, despite his youth he was a key figure in the GCL Nats domination this year. Despite concerns about the level of his high school competition (OK isn't FL or CA) Ward hit .292 in his first wood bat professional season. He also carried his discerning batting eye with him from OK (where he set a state record for walks in a season) to the GCL (.402 OBP). He only had one HR, but as he fills out and adjusts to wood bats the power should come around. He's still at least 2-3 years off though, likely more.

Anonymous said...

How about moving Desmond to 3rd and signing a FA like Jhonny Peralta (which I admit is risky from a suspension perspective).

Like Youkilis as a flyer. He would fit in nicely with the team chemistry.

Can't see the team spending the money on Cano, but hey, dreams are free.

Froggy said...

Anon~ Desmond to 3rd does sound he does have quite the cannon. Has he ever played that position before?

Anonymous said...

I don't think he has played 3rd before (at least in the majors), but I would think he has the skills to pick it up.

Anonymous said...

If you went and got Omar Infante for a starting SS then you could move Desmond to 3rd and Zim to 1st and improve the overall offense and may even improve the defense at the same time. Sign Cano for 2nd, have Rendon off the bench and we are good to go for 2014 infield.

Anonymous said...

Zimmerman isn't going anywhere. His offense is league average at 3B but would be below average at 1B (as is LaRoche's right now). When his arm is healthy, Zim is an excellent defensive 3B.

Skole played 3B at Ga. Tech and 3B all through the minors but was at 1B in the spring. He is back at 3B in AZ right now. Most reports, however, have insisted that his future is at 1B because of defense. He's an on-base machine and might even be an upgrade to ALR at 1B this year if they'd give him the chance.

A Cano contract would hamstring this team for a long time with an aging guy. If you want a bat for the middle of the order, put together a deal for Stanton.

If we need to make a change in the INF, move LaRoche and get Josh Donaldson from Oakland, then flip a coin between him and Zim to see who moves to first.

blovy8 said...

It's easy spend the Lerners' money, but the opportunity has to be there for a starting-level player to sign here unless there's a recent problem. I don't think Youkilis' bad back is anything new, but his power numbers are trending down in a big way, it's only his plate discipline that makes him worth having at this point and I'd let someone else pay the starting rate for him, if that's what it takes. AL teams again have the leverage with older players since they can DH him some. Even though he's not getting 12 million again, I'd expect the Nats to go for a guy like Betemit, if they think Moore can't hack it. That would give you further depth for any emergency at third.

blovy8 said...

Well, maybe Betemit doesn't hit lefties well enough to fit in.