Nationals Baseball: Offseason Position Discussion : Third Base

Monday, October 27, 2014

Offseason Position Discussion : Third Base

Presumed Plan : Anthony Rendon will continue to start at 3rd base. Frandsen will likely back-up.
Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Anthony Rendon is an outside candidate for MVP. There is very little he can't do on a diamond. Along with some top-notch fielding at 3rd base (he's in the discussion for best defensive 3rd baseman in the NL), Anthony can : 

Hit for average :  His .287 average was 20th in the NL
Get on base :  His 8.5% walk rate may not seem great but in this new world it's good enough for 27th in the NL. That added to his average gave him the 20th best OBP in the league.
Hit for power : His .186 isoSLG was 14th in the NL
Run the bases : His 17 SBs was 17th in the NL. His baserunning ranked 2nd. His "speed" stat was 8th. 

It is difficult to find a flaw in his game and he'll only turn 25 next year meaning he's likely to be at least this good for another 5 years and he might get better. There is no question that Rendon starts on this team, or any team for that matter.

Frandsen? He is capable of playing 3rd base and hitting a baseball occasionally. He is also signed next year and a scrappy vet.

Problems with Presumed Plan : Ok, we got to be picky here. But I suppose you could say the Nats are relying a lot on one season of stats.  Sure he did well in the minors but in a big chunk of season in 2013 he was merely ok. So perhaps we caught his best year in 2014. While he fields well at 3rd he isn't the defensive whiz that Zimmerman was during his prime. And while he does everything very well, he hasn't yet shown himself to do anything great and quite possibly won't ever reach that level. Is he going to hit .325+ or 35+ homers? I can see it happening but I'd bet on "no".
Really though the biggest problem is the one noted previously.  Rendon can play other positions and there are actually some decent 3rd base options out there which doesn't always happen, so it might be better to shift Rendon over. 
Frandsen. Eh. Where Rendon does everything very well Frandsen does nothing very well. Actually, that's not entirely fair. He does make contact well. But he doesn't get on base, he doesn't hit for power, he's not a good fielder, he's not a good baserunner. Bench players are inherently flawed but you like someone who's major strength is more than "Might not strike out and by putting the ball in play could get a single"

My take : This really isn't something to mull over. Could it be a fluke year? I guess. But even if you split the difference between his first two seasons he's a good starter. No he's not a great 3rd baseman with the glove, but he could be the best currently in the senior circuit. How is that an issue? And the fact that he may not reach superstardom? That's ok. I think we'll all take 5 more years of plain old regular stardom. Rendon is a cornerstone of this franchise in his 2nd year and projects to be straight into the next playoff cycle. At worst he's a good dependable starter at typically a difficult position to fill. At best he's a perennial All-Star and wins at least one MVP.

I don't like Frandsen but who better is out there? If Rizzo is smart he makes a courtesy call to Eric Chavez to see if he's reconsidering retirement, otherwise shrug your shoulders, I guess. See if you can't draft someone? Really I don't know. 

Outside the Box Suggestion : We've already covered a shift to 2nd so let's think of a different OTB suggestion. Rendon is a cornerstone for the Nats right? A guy you desperately need to keep healthy and happy over the next 5 years and maybe beyond. While he hasn't had a major injury in a couple years he did have them in 2009 and 2010 and 2011 and 2012 (ankle, ankle, shoulder, ankle). The shoulder one in particular forced him to DH most of his last year at Rice. The last thing the Nats need is another guy they are looking to move around to accommodate because of injury. So why not move Rendon to first right now while there is a hole?  Make him your first baseman and never worry again about where he might play if he gets injured. Set him and forget him. If you think it's stupid because he's such a good third baseman, lets remind you again that Zimm was a GREAT 3rd baseman, fair to make comparisons to the best ever. Seriously. That good. One injury later and he's stuck at first.

Filling 3rd won't be that much of an issue. We've noted there is a rare... well I wouldn't say glut... but multiple decent FA and trade possibilities at 3rd this year. Rizzo would find a way. The real issue would be what to do with Zimm. My plan would be to super sub him around the diamond. LF, 2B, occasionally 3B. Really the goal would be to make sure he gets consistent at bats because you are showcasing him for a trade to the AL where he can DH. Then do that when you have a chance. 


Jimmy said...

Harper who would you think will be better for the next 3 seasons Harper or Rendon?

Anonymous said...

Harper I saw something that said your site could be worth 9 mill is that true

Anonymous said...

And what do you think of taveras death

Harper said...

If both are healthy I think Bryce, but I like Rendon to be healthier. So I say Bryce has a OMG year in there but in overall value Rendon takes the 3 year range

Harper said...

Anon - HHAHAHAHAHA no. I have no idea where that number would come from. If I were to guess... A few thousand maybe? I have no good idea how to calculate something like that but I'd guess low.

Tavares death is terrible. It's just so... wrong when something like this happens to someone so young, for whatever the reasons. I won't say "unfair" because what is fair, but it's not the way things are supposed to go. Wrong.

Were you looking for a baseball take?

Jay said...

I still vote sign Sandoval and move Rendon to second. I know it's been covered.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Harper

Harper said...

Jay - any Rendon to 2nd idea would be worth exploring but I can't see it happening unless Rendon himself initiates it and why would he? While I have my preference I accept that's the reality. And let's face it - he can play 3rd and it's a position that's on the hard side to fill so it could be far far worse.

Anonymous said...

Outside the box: reacquaint Souza with third base and move Rendon to second. Save the money on a big-name free agent for second or third and sign Desmond for five more years.

Chaz R said...

As much as I'd like to see Rizzo go out and get a power hitter for 3B, I just don't see them moving Rendon back to 2B. I suspect they want to allow Rendon some consistency to continue to develop at 3B. It's a not a terrible plan, but getting one of the available 2Bman or bringing Cabrera back isn't going to improve the offense as much as a new 3Bman would.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon#1. Having Souza play 3B in wintr league is the true outside the box suggestions

Anonymous said...

I agree Rizzo ain't moving Rendon back to second. Even though signing Sandoval or Ramirez to play third seems best to me. Chaz is right

Chaos said...

Here's your out of the box--Rendon becomes the Nat's Zobrist. Play him in the OF, play him at 2nd, play him at 3B.....just play him. 9 or 10 guys to fill 8 lineup spots is ideal. From what I've seen of Tony Two Bags, he'll play anywhere and not care. Play the position well, get the hits. On the Bryce/Rendon question, Bryce's ceiling is just too far up there to compare them.

John C. said...

Having Souza play 3b is a really out of the box suggestion. He hasn't played 3b since 2010 in Hagerstown, and he was moved off 3b on merit. At Fanfest last spring he told the story of being heckled by fans in Hagerstown about his fielding at 3b, and seemed to think the fans were right about it. Small wonder - he made 92 errors and turned only 23 DPs in 249 games. That's a rate of about 60 errors per 162 games! Yuck. His career fielding percentage at 3b is .866. That means more than one of every eight balls hit at him resulted in an error.

For perspective, Josh Donaldson led all major league third baseman in errors this year ... with 23. Even acknowledging that errors are an imperfect measure, yikes.

Putting a player at 3b who hasn't played 3b in four years, was terrible at it when he did, openly mocked his own ability at the position, and who has found a solid home in the OF (and was pretty good at 1b when he played there in 2011) doesn't seem to me to be so much "out of the box" as "a terrible idea."

blovy8 said...

According to MLB Trade rumors the prospective 3B free agents are:
Hanley Ramirez
Aramis Ramirez (14m option with 4m buyout)
Hannahan (4m option, 2m buyout)
Mark Reynolds
Donnie Murphy
Kelly Johnson
Chris Nelson
- I don't know that the choices are great, although I would like Sandoval, I think he's going to get a big deal. Hanley will be likely be priced out of the Nats range too, and have qualifying offer just as Sandoval will. Aramis' mutual option/or qualifying offer probably will happen since that's such a stiff buyout and the Brewers need him, so Headley appears to be the only realistic option. With that fluky 2012 fading, he's starting to look more like a glove-first guy on the decline who's coming off a career year in defensive value - I don't really see him as a strong target for the Nats over keeping Rendon at 3rd and going after a 2B through a trade. The other guys stink, and given that even a AAAA type of guy like Hannahan has a deal like that, I can only imagine what Headley will command as a free agent. I bet Cabrera would be cheaper to bring back.

Miles Treacy said...

What do you think would be the going rate for Headley? Off year, but also nagging injuries that possibly contributed so maybe a offseason would give him a boost to come back productive.

Harper said...

All - I agree with John C. Souza had played 3B (or an IF position) for 4 straight years and still was terrible. To put him in now... let's just say I'd rather put Zimm back at 3B and have Souza play 1B if you were forcing all them into the IF. It's not a viable solution to me.

Chaos - I suppose you could but the Nats would need a lot of specific talent to make it work. Like he plays 2B when there is a RHP so Espy sits, but then we need a left masher for 3B so he can shift over there. Trade for Baker!

blovy8 - it may not seem great but let's take a look here. Sandoval, H Ramirez, Headley are all starter worth and FA. A Ramirez, Beltre and Encarnacion are all heading toward FA next year and probably not going to be re-signed which means they are trade bait. And who knows, Longoria might be available for someone wanting to eat that contract. That's 7 of the Top 15 3B (arguably - A Ram is slip sliding away) I'm not a FA expert but I bet you aren't going to find a FA/trade season like this for a position for a few years.

I also saw a lot of Headley and like him more than you do. Yes 2012 was a fluke but I think he'll be a .265 / 18 guy who can walk and play good to great D for the next 3+ years.

Harper said...

Miles - Somewhere between 3/45 and 5/55 I bet. Probably a smidge lower than people are thinking given the market. I bet someone swoops in and gets him for something around 4/45.

Anonymous said...


How much do you think a player like Joe Panik is worth? Loads of team control and looks to be a super deluxe frandsen who hits lefty.

KW said...

John C. - Good scoop on Souza and 3B. I hadn't heard that before but suspected there was something along those lines. I think Skole may be even worse at the hot corner, and he spent most of his time at 1B this year.

Someone is going to overpay for Sandoval. Heck, giving him a qualifying offer would be an overpay. I might be intrigued by Headley in the $10-11M range, but not up around $15M. His splits aren't nearly as lopsided as Panda's, and the Nats would benefit from having someone who can hit from the left side.

In the meantime, I'm going back to pining for Donaldson . . .

blovy8 said...

I think Headley's only hit as many as 18 HR in 2012, so I wouldn't expect it unless he stayed with the Yankees or signed somewhere he could pull the ball and be rewarded. A-Ramirez is probably either playing for Milwaukee or not getting re-signed, either way, as a stopgap, it doesn't really sound like Rizzo offseason trade to me. Same would go for Beltre unless the asking price is less that I imagine it to be. Encarnacion, aka E5 shouldn't play 3B anymore - Zim is already playing first.

If the Rays go full re-load, I'd say Zobrist is the target before Longoria. But I'd make that deal for the right price too I suppose, though I've not heard any rumors he's available. If they're willing to eat money, they can have A-Rod for nothing.

Froggy said...

If it ain't broke don't try and fix it. I think Rendon is progressing well at 3b, so leave him alone. The solution is in your previous post: find someone to improve 2b offense production.