To evaluate the Nationals' recent history at Third Base, you have to go back to the offseason following the World Series Championship back in 2019. The Nationals got an MVP caliber season from Anthony Rendon that year, which was obviously a big piece of the World Series winning puzzle. They opted to let him walk that offseason, a decision, with the benefit of hindsight, that seems quite good at the moment. However, since that departure, the Nationals have not had an answer at Third Base.
Following the hole that Rendon left at Third Base, the Nationals really tried to give Carter Kieboom every chance in the world to seize the opportunity. He did not. Instead, the Nationals have trotted out players like Asdrubal Cabrera and Maikel Franco, which weren't good decisions even before they had a single rep in the field.
Finally last season, the Nationals took a flyer with some upside in Jeimer Candelario. Candelario was coming off a down year with the Tigers, in a notoriously difficult stadium to hit in, but had shown promise in years prior. The decision could not have played out better for the Nationals because not only did Candelario excel in his short stint with the Nationals, they were also able to flip him at the deadline for a high upside arm in DJ Herz, who they recently added to the 40 man roster, signifying that his Major League debut could be coming soon.
What the Nationals found post-Candelario is that they once again did not have an answer at Third Base. They once again tried and failed to give Carter Kieboom the everyday job, so they wound up playing utility-man Ildemaro Vargas a majority of the time, who has the glove for Third but does not have the bat for a starting job, let alone at Third. A reunion with Candelario is well within reach for the Nationals as he could bridge the gap until other candidate emerges, but that candidate may have already emerged.
Trey Lipscomb Should Be The Nationals Third Baseman in 2024
I do not know where this lands on the hot-take meter, but I feel pretty good about it for multiple reasons. The primary reason is that Trey Lipscomb is VERY good defensively, especially at Third Base.
When you have Minor Leaguer that has a tool, whether it is offense or defense, that can play at the Major League level, it makes it much easier to work through the potential growing pains. Lipscomb is an MLB caliber defensive Third Baseman already and he has not even hit AAA yet.
And that isn't to say his bat won't be good either. Lipscomb had a scorching streak offensively in AA Harrisburg before cooling off towards the end of the season, but still finished with a respectable .284/.310/.438 slashline, with 10 home runs and 45 RBI in 80 games.
Now I know what people's primary concern/response will be: what about Brady House?
For the record, I am a big Brady House fan. When you think 'Nationals Third Baseman of the Future', you think Brady House. And I stand by that. However, I think the Nationals will want to play it slow with Brady House for a couple reasons. First of all, he is three years younger than Lipscomb and therefore has three fewer years experience playing past high school. Lipscomb not only has a leg up on House in age, but he also played college ball in the SEC at the University of Tennessee, which is similar competition to some Minor League levels. House has also been injured off and on throughout his time in the Minors, most notably in 2022 with a back injury that took away most of his season. So in some respects, Lipscomb almost has four years experience on House.
That is not to say House is necessarily four years away from reaching the Majors, just that Lipscomb is much better suited to make the potential jump from AA to the Majors. Now if the Nationals want to go out and sign Matt Chapman, then of course neither Lipscomb or House should reach the Majors until they prove without a shadow of a doubt that they are ready. But if the Nationals do not add a solution to Third Base this offseason, I think Lipscomb is better suited than anyone currently on the 40 man roster. And when House's time comes, Lipscomb can slide over to second base where he is also gold glove caliber defensively. The Nationals seem to be tiring on Luis Garcia, so this may be their desired move anyways.
We have finally gotten to the point in this stage of the rebuild where it is time to let the young guys play, so I say let Trey Lipscomb play. The Nationals can find veteran flyers at other positions like First Base and DH, as well as within the rotation that they can bet on to bounce back before trading at the deadline. Let's see if we can finally solve the Third Base problem.