While the MLB Winter Meetings are lacking in actual moves, there are plenty of Washington Nationals rumors, such as the Nats interest in DJ LeMahieu.
Even though the Washington Nationals got most of their business done before the Winter Meetings, they’re still looking active this week. The latest Nationals rumors are suggesting that the team is intensifying its pursuit of second baseman DJ LeMahieu.
Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post reported that the two sides have had a few discussions now. Dougherty followed this up by saying that this likely means the interest between the two sides is beyond a preliminary stage and could result in a deal.
Despite the consistent message from the Nats’ front office that they’re satisfied with the current second base situation, it’s pretty clear that’s not the case. Given how quickly they have operated so far this offseason, it wouldn’t be surprising if a deal came together quickly for LeMahieu.
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The former Colorado Rockies second baseman has slashed .298/.350/.406 in his career to go along with 49 home runs, 349 RBIs and 75 stolen bases. While those look nice on the face of it, it can’t simply be written off that he has played a huge portion of his games in the hitter-friendly Coors Field, which will be a concern for all of his potential suitors.
In his career at the home of the Rockies, he holds a batting average of .329 as well as an OPS of .834 and 21 long balls. At Coors, he also has a lofty .374 BABIP that is likely propping up some of those stats in the thin air of Colorado too, making it unsustainable.
Compare those numbers to his road numbers and then it automatically looks less impressive and leaves a lot to be desired if that’s what we can expect from LeMahieu moving forward. Away from Colorado, he’s hit just .264 with a measly .677 OPS which isn’t exactly much of an upgrade on existing candidates Howie Kendrick and Wilmer Difo.
However, in LeMahieu’s defense, he is definitely an upgrade defensively on both Difo and Kendrick, a part of his game that can’t be ignored. He’s a three-time Gold Glove winner at the position and would be a breath of fresh air after the Nats have had Daniel Murphy occupy the spot for the majority of the past three seasons.
The most puzzling aspect of this is that it could, in theory, block top prospect Carter Kieboom‘s path to the majors in 2019 and possibly 2020. LeMahieu is bound to command a multi-year deal after his success with the Rockies, while Kieboom is expected to be major league ready at some point in the 2019 season, but in this scenario, he would likely be held down in the minors until September.
While there are several worse problems than having too many good players to fit on your roster, it would surely make more sense to pursue a one-year option and invest the surplus somewhere else. A name like Brian Dozier comes to mind who could produce close enough to LeMahieu, while also not blocking Kieboom from the majors long-term.
The Washington Nationals do finally appear to have accepted that the status quo at the keystone is far from ideal. DJ LeMahieu would definitely provide an upgrade there, but whether he would be worth the price he would command is unclear.