Nationals Baseball: Offseason Position Discussion : Third Base

Friday, November 10, 2017

Offseason Position Discussion : Third Base

Last year discussion revisited

Perhaps the easiest single position. The plan had to still be play Rendon even coming off another injury recovery year that looked merely ok. He was too young, too cheap, and too good when healthy to contemplate someone replacing him. Espy was the back-up at the time, which was fine.

The Nats of course did this (well they traded Espy but that didn't matter for 3rd) and Rendon stayed healthy all year. After a slow first month, he took off and might have been the best player in baseball from May through July. From the 6-6 10 RBI day on the last day of April, through a 1-3 double, RBI, and RS performance on the first of August Rendon hit .346 / .455 / .693 with 21 homers, 23 doubles, and 65 RBI in 75 games.  Just about then everyone started to notice him and the "maybe Rendon should be MVP" talk started.  It quickly ended as he had his worst month of the year, followed by a good to very good but not great September. Not that he shouldn't have been in the MVP discussion though.

It didn't really matter who backed-up Rendon as he started 143 games at the position. Drew was the early replacement. Difo and Adrian Sanchez took the games down the stretch.

OOB idea was trading Rendon for a young Red Sox player which would have worked out great for the Red Sox in most circumstances. I ended up bringing this up again later in the year making the "Well if you take sabrmetric analysis to its illogical end, you should only try to win as many games as it takes to make the playoffs. Any wins more are 'wasted'. The Nats are going to make it easily so they should trade a good player for future help. How about Rendon for Devers?" barroom argument. No one is going to make that deal, but dammit if it didn't strangely make a lot of sense at the time and even in hindsight. Still wouldn't have made it though.

Presumed Plan : Rendon plays.  Whoever backs-up is presumably going to be the guy they bring in to back-up MI to start year (or Difo if they bring in a starter) but we've talked about that enough. How this fits into 3rd base coverage is secondary

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : See above for what Rendon did this year - he was near MVP worthy for the season and maybe the best player in the game for half the year. You play those guys.

Rendon has pulled off two straight full years of play. Murphy's injury makes 2B a question mark to start the year, if not longer. It only makes sense that you worry about someone playing 2B first, then see how that fits with your 3rd base back-up plan.

Problems with Presumed Plan : Well those two straight full years of play are the first time Rendon has pulled that off since presumably high school so you are still taking a risk.

The other question is that planning needs to start one way or another on what happens after 2019 when Rendon becomes a free agent at 29. Do the Nats sign him and lock up 3rd base for hopefully the first half of the 2020s? If so, starting him every game should be the goal. Do they let him walk? If you are thinking about it, then maybe you start giving those youngsters some games, and maybe look at what you can get back for a guy with his talent.

My take : You can't dismiss Anthony's LOOOOONG injury history.  Add that to Murphy's injury and it's almost like the Nats need to bring in two starter worthy bench players just in case. Now if you love Difo I suppose he can be one, but I feel it's apparent the cheap last guy off the bench shouldn't be an option for the Nats in 2018. So Anthony starts - duh - but there should be a good option sitting on the bench if he gets hurt.

As for the post 2019 argument? You can't really worry about getting players time if you are shooting for a World Series. Plus enough guys get hurt that if you want to see Difo start again or Sanchez get more play, you'll have the time. Do you listen to what you can get for him? Sure, you ALWAYS listen. But I have a hard time seeing how this team is going to be better off in the next couple of years, when they'd like to compete for a title, without him.

Out of the box suggestion :

But they could be! The NL East is a mess. They don't need Rendon. Let's just rebuild - trade Bryce, trade Rendon. Maybe you can get someone to take Wieters while they are at it. Robles is a top prospect so you've got that next round coming. Who to trade with? I just threw out the Yankees in the SS OOB idea so let's skip them. You don't want to go in league so in the AL the Astros... have Bregman, but the Indians... have Jose Ramirez, but the Red Sox... have Devers, we just talked about that. WHAT IS WITH THIS?  Ok we'll work in league the Cubs... have Bryant. The Dodgers... have Justin Turner.  The Rockies... have Arenando. THIS IS CRAZY. The Diamondbacks! Jake Lamb isn't a great fielder.  They could shift him to first and push... off... Goldschmidt.  You know I'm getting annoyed here. What about the Twins? Sano isn't a good fielder. Mauer can DH for a year or Sano can DH. Now we'll just grab their Top 10 overall prosp... Top 20? No? Top 30. That isn't good enough.

Screw it. Move Rendon to 2nd and sign Moustakas.


PotomacFan said...

The Nats need to sign Rendon long-term and lock him in. Among his many other attributes, Rendon can play second or third base, giving the Nats more flexibility in replacing Daniel Murphy after next season.

Josh Higham said...

I am very curious what Rendon would actually command on the open market. Turner took a team friendly deal at 4/64 at age 31. Rendon is two years younger, a better and more versatile fielder, and (maybe) a slightly worse hitter. Rendon has yet to be healthy and great two years in a row, but at his best is phenomenally good and he is a Boras client. Is 6/120 a lowball offer for a sometimes phenomenal 29 year old with an extensive injury history? I don't have much of a feel for what's a fair contract.

PotomacFan said...

Here is a partial list of 2018 contract values for 3B:

I would guestimate that Rendon is worth $20 - $25 million per year, for 5 - 6 years.

Harper said...

This feels right. Nats would probably start off with a 5/100 with a mutual option for a 6th year.

KW said...

I remain very curious about Cozart. I doubt he would sign with the Nats for a super-utility role, but considering the lack of demand for shortstops, he may end up being the best bang-for-buck bat in the free agent market. His stroke also seems perfect for Kevin Long supercharging. He could start at 2B to begin the season so the Nats don't feel like they have to rush Murphy back, then he could just rotate across 2B, SS, and 3B and be a super sub for the injuries that will inevitably happen. Beyond 2018, he could be Murph's replacement.