Washington Nationals: Could Wilmer Difo be a trade candidate?

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BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 30: Wilmer Difo #1 of the Washington Nationals fields a ground ball to retire Trey Mancini #16 of the Baltimore Orioles (not pictured) during the inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 30, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 30: Wilmer Difo #1 of the Washington Nationals fields a ground ball to retire Trey Mancini #16 of the Baltimore Orioles (not pictured) during the inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 30, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
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After the Washington Nationals signed Brian Dozier to take over at the keystone, could that make fellow infielder Wilmer Difo expendable this winter?

It’s been an offseason of change with the Washington Nationals as they look to completely reshape their roster. Now it’s fair to wonder whether Wilmer Difo could be traded away as the front office rounds out the roster.

The Nats officially confirmed the acquisition of Brian Dozier on Sunday afternoon, and he’s expected to be their starting second baseman in 2019. Top prospect Carter Kieboom is also waiting in the wings and could make his major league debut this season, so the short-term and long-term future of second base seems to be secure.

That makes both Howie Kendrick and Difo expendable should they want to shed a bit of salary, or make some sort of player swap with another team. Brittany Ghiroli of The Athletic suggested that notion in a recent article after the Dozier signing too.

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Kendrick will certainly have more value to the Nats as a bench bat, who can fill in at the keystone or in either corner outfield spot, than anything he would return in a trade. Therefore, Difo makes sense as the logical trade candidate of the two, and even more so with four years of control remaining on his contract.

Like Kendrick, Difo also has versatility, including the ability to play shortstop should Trea Turner go down, which the older Kendrick wouldn’t be able to do. But one area that he has struggled in during his career is as a pinch hitter, with just a .499 OPS off the bench compared to a .694 OPS as a starter. So while the concern about a possible Turner injury may be warranted, the team would have a pair of other options that make Difo expendable.

First is the obvious one in Carter Kieboom, who could either come up if he’s lurking in the minors, or if he was already at second base they could shift him back to his natural home of shortstop. If Kieboom still isn’t deemed to be fully ready, the Nats could call up Adrian Sanchez, who came on strong towards the end of the year to act as a stopgap at shortstop as a temporary measure.

So with no easy route to a starting gig for the Nats, perhaps it’s best to explore a trade for Difo who could be more valuable elsewhere as a bit-part starter on a team looking to acquire an infielder on the cheap. While the market for that sort of player isn’t huge, there could be teams out there that may consider him in a similar way to how the Nationals were able to trade Danny Espinosa.

The Milwaukee Brewers were one of the rumored teams in on Dozier before he signed with the Nationals, so perhaps a straight up trade for a high-upside reliever like Bobby Wahl could work.

Or perhaps a team like the Kansas City Royals, who traded for Brian Goodwin at the end of last year would like a backup infielder. While the Royals lack an obvious major league swap candidate, perhaps a low-level prospect such as outfielder Brewer Hicklen who is ranked as the team’s 21st ranked prospect according to MLB.com.

Next. Six Nats who could breakout in 2019. dark

Wilmer Difo has largely underwhelmed in his time with the Washington Nationals since his debut in 2016. Perhaps a trade could be best for both parties to give the Nats a nice prospect rather than carry someone on the roster who would only be injury insurance.

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