Much Needed Lineup Protection
Ryan Zimmerman is at the end of his career and hasn’t announced if he will be returning or retiring. Even if he returns, the Washington Nationals will need a first baseman of the future and that is where the Pittsburgh Pirates come in. The Pirates are entering a full rebuild and Josh Bell doesn’t match their timetable. The 28-year-old had a down year in 2020, but in 2019 he hit .277 with 37 homers, 116 RBIs, and an OPS of .936. Similar to Gerrit Cole, Austin Meadows, and Tyler Glasnow, a change of scenery would benefit Bell. With Washington, Bell would provide plenty of power from the middle of the lineup and he wouldn’t be leaned on to carry the load. Defensively, Bell struggles, which can be seen by his career -32 DRS. The Washington Nationals should roll the dice on Bell whose stock dropped significantly, but has a high ceiling.
Third base has been a huge conundrum since Anthony Rendon left. Asdrubal Cabrera is a free agent and will be playing elsewhere next season. Top prospect Carter Kieboom struggled mightily at the plate and might end up being sent back to the minors. The third base market is thin at best, making the trade market the best possible option. However, trading for players such as Kris Bryant or Nolan Arenado will damage an already empty farm system. Plus, both will be rentals. Bryant has one year left on his contract and Arenado has an option after 2021.
Give Kieboom another shot. Yes, he looked lost at the plate last year. He hit .202, with nine RBIs, and an OPS of .556. Yuck. However, not all players hit the ground running. It took Lucas Giolito, a former top prospect in baseball a few years in the minors before he finally broke out. Kieboom has nothing left to prove in the minors and the team needs to know if he is the guy. Give him first crack. On the plus side, Kieboom’s glove really showed up in 2020. He had five DRS and a UZR of .8. Kieboom had to learn third on the fly. He is a natural shortstop but had to switch positions due to the presence of Trea Turner. Seeing Kieboom finally come into his own defensively at third was encouraging.