Washington Nationals: Potential starting second base candidates in 2019

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DENVER, CO - AUGUST 15: Trea Turner #7 of the Washington Nationals slides into second base with a steal ahead of a tag attempt by DJ LeMahieu #9 of the Colorado Rockies in the seventh inning of a game at Coors Field on August 15, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - AUGUST 15: Trea Turner #7 of the Washington Nationals slides into second base with a steal ahead of a tag attempt by DJ LeMahieu #9 of the Colorado Rockies in the seventh inning of a game at Coors Field on August 15, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /
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Washington Nationals Trea Turner All-Star Game
(Photo: Daniel Shirey of Getty Images) /

Out-of-the-box candidates

Anthony Rendon

.292/.353/.497 – 16 HRs, 1 SB

Anthony Rendon is as steady as they come at the hot corner, as he’s fourth in fWAR among third baseman since 2016. It would take a big signing to move him over to second, where he played over 1,400 innings from 2013-15 for the Washington Nationals.

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But if Rizzo wanted to shake things up, he could potentially ink former MVP Josh Donaldson to a one-year, prove-it contract. Donaldson, who posted a 144 OPS+ from 2013-17, has slumped to a 104 OPS+ in just 36 games this season.

He will likely want a multi-year deal as he turns 33 in December, but he could be tempted by a $20-plus million offer for one year to potentially rebuild his value. Rendon rated out as an average defender at second, which would still be a massive upgrade on Murphy.

Carter Kieboom

.282/.359/.452 – 16 HRs, 7 SBs

Carter Kieboom has raked in the minor leagues this season and skied up the prospect rankings as a result. He slots into the “out-of-the-box” section because he is probably on pace to hit the major league level in the middle of 2019.

In the long run, he might be more likely to shift to third base than stick at his current shortstop position. However, we’ve seen Rizzo’s willingness to call up young players before, so fast-tracking Kieboom to the bigs is still a possibility to fill in a potential gaping hole.

Trea Turner

.269/.336/.409 – 15 HRs, 32 SBs

Trea Turner is a very reliable shortstop, and he seems to be getting better defensively over time, but he could end up shifting to second base if Rizzo inks another shortstop in free agency.

One candidate could be Detroit’s Jose Iglesias, whose superstar glove outweighs his mediocre bat (career 84 OPS+) and at age 28, he could still have some untapped potential. Turner and Iglesias would create a young, athletic, and affordable duo capable of supplementing the team’s big boppers with speed an defense.

The Verdict

If it seems like the high-profile free agent options at second base this winter are underwhelming, well, it’s because they are. Difo and Kendrick aren’t the full-time answers either, but they can at least be pieces of the puzzle.

At a bare minimum, the Nationals need to grab four pitchers over the offseason with three relievers and one starter. This further limits funds for the team that could also soon have a $250 million right fielder. Kinsler, Iglesias, or another bargain player all represent the ability to save money, while still building real depth across the infield.

For the rest of 2018, the Washington Nationals will likely give Wilmer Difo the bulk of the starts. His performance may affect the team’s decision, but regardless, it’s a spot the front office will need to consider going forward.

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