With Jayson Werth likely gone, the Washington Nationals may have a need for an outfielder. If they do, they should consider trading for Jason Kipnis.
For the last seven years, Jayson Werth has patrolled the outfield for the Washington Nationals. However, his contract has now expired, and we have likely seen the last of his days in a Curly W uniform. If he does return, it will be in a much lesser role.
Because of this, the Nats have an outfield decision to make. Michael Taylor blossomed into an everyday player in 2017, so they could easily keep him in center field and slide Adam Eaton to left field. This is what would happen if the season started today, and this is a fine option.
If the Nats do not want to do that, they could opt to buy low on a superstar. Jason Kipnis is coming off of an injury-plagued season in which he put up career-low stats in nearly every category. While he was hurt, a few Cleveland depth players emerged as everyday players, rendering Kipnis expendable.
You’re probably thinking, “Kipnis is a second baseman; how will he fill the Nats’ need for an outfielder?”. When Kipnis returned from the disabled list, he played center field because of various outfield injuries and the emergence of other infielders.
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According to FanGraphs, Kipnis was an average defensive center fielder. He probably should not play center field everyday long-term, but he would make a fine left fielder. Adam Lind played a decent amount of left field for the Nats in 2017, and Kipnis is a much better defender, so he would be alright.
Kipnis also would not be the first second baseman to transition to playing left field; he wouldn’t even be the first National to do it. In 2017, Howie Kendrick, a natural infielder, played both second base and left field.
Offensively, Kipnis is one of the best in the league, which would make up for any misplays he may make in the outfield. As recently as 2016, he was a 4.8 WAR player and was only a few stolen bases away from a 20/20 season.
Just because Kipnis would predominantly play left field for the Nats does not mean he would not see any time at second base. Daniel Murphy recently underwent knee surgery, and may not be ready for Opening Day. If this is the case, Kipnis could start at second base and move to left field once Murphy returns.
The Nats may also be losing lots of left-handed power after the 2018 season. Both Bryce Harper and Murphy have expiring contracts and could be playing elsewhere in 2019.
Kipnis is left-handed and under team-control through 2020, so he could provide some power from the left side in 2019 and beyond. He could also move back to second base if Murphy departs after 2018.
Trading for Kipnis could provide first base depth as well. In 2017, Adam Lind was the Nats’ back-up first baseman, and he did a phenomenal job. Lind is currently a free agent and will likely be a starting first baseman or designated hitter somewhere in 2018, so the Nats need to replace him.
Right now, the Nats do not have a back-up first baseman, and there do not appear to be any great ones available. Ryan Zimmerman has been extremely injury-prone throughout his career, so having a back-up first baseman capable of filling in for a while is crucial.
If the Nats trade for Kipnis and Zimmerman gets hurt, Kipnis can play second base and Murphy can slide over to first base. Murphy has played first in the past and is not a great defender at second, so this is a perfectly plausible scenario.
Finally, Kipnis provides lots of postseason experience and success. He has played in 21 postseason games throughout his career, including a trip to the World Series in 2016. For a team who has failed to advance past the NLDS in all four trips to the postseason, this could be an invaluable asset.
Jason Kipnis has been an infielder for his entire career, but saw some time in center field in 2017. He is also coming off of a down season, which places his trade value at an all-time low. If the Nats elect to address their outfield need via trade, Kipnis is an excellent outside-the-box option.