As far as the Major League front goes, not much happening in the midst of a lockout. The Minor League transaction log continues to update though, and a couple of names pop out as recent Washington Nationals signings. Maikel Franco and Dee Strange-Gordon have agreed to minors pacts with the Nats, and presumably given an ample shot at making the team out of Spring Training.
During a time when big league rosters are frozen, any baseball news is worth noting. The fact the Nationals are bringing in some depth guys while they are kept from working on the 40-man roster, is great.
Can we read anything into the November minor league free-agent signings? What about the two big league contracts handed out, prior to the lockdown, do they tell us anything?
The Washington Nationals have added some light hitting infielders as they continue to navigate the offseason.
There are a lot of question marks about the infield in its current state. Josh Bell is in a walk year, Trea Turner has vacated the shortstop position, and Carter Kieboom and his nine lives are sitting on third base. As the Nationals look for long term solutions at each position, they have begun to patch together some names to compete for roster spots.
The group is collectively an ensemble of light hitting, low on base guys.
Alcides Escobar was rewarded with a guaranteed contract after his 2021 campaign. After not appearing in the Majors since 2018, he batted .288 with and OPS of .744. Prior to that he hadn’t had an OPS above .700, since 2012. Escobar may hit the gaps (21 doubles in 319 ABs a year ago), though he doesn’t have “out of the park” power.
Cesar Hernandez also has a big league contract and brings a little more power to the table than Escobar. Hernandez had a career high 21 long balls this past season, though saw his batting average drop to .232. His OPS of .694, was the worst its been since 2015. What will the 2022 Nationals get from Cesar, a guy who doesn’t get on base but hits for power, or a guy who reaches base and doesn’t hit home runs?
The most recent addition, another middle infielder (save the 66 games the Seattle Mariners threw him in the outfield), in Dee Strange-Gordon. A former All-Star, Strange-Gordon is the ultimate speed guy, leading the Majors in stolen bases in three separate seasons. He doesn’t walk much and he’s the stereotypical, wish he could steal first base guy. He has 18 career home runs in over four thousand plate appearances.
Then there is Maikel Franco, coming off arguably his worst year in professional baseball. Franco hit .210 with an OPS of .609, for the worst team in baseball. He’s the man going to push Carter Kieboom for playing time? Franco also doesn’t walk much and has had one season with an OPS over .780 in his career.
All this to say, the Nationals are stockpiling infielders who struggle to get on base or hit for power. Again, we point to a rebuilding team who isn’t investing a lot of money at the moment. If the Nationals can get the last bit out of these players who seem to be in decline, fantastic, they won’t be around when the team starts winning again.
As the lockout continues, the Nationals will sift through the names of minor league free agents, hoping to land a few other names to compete for jobs. For now, a handful of light hitting middle infielders is what we have to show for the offseason. .