The defending World Series Champions were an integral part of two of the three biggest stories to emerge from the 2019 Winter Meetings in San Diego (if you thought the third one was Gerrit Cole, you thought wrong ;-).
It’s safe to say that ten years ago, had it been Ryan Zimmerman departing for
Fox News’s Favorite California Media Market Orange County, Mike Rizzo might have given the keys to Carter Kieboom at third base and let him learn on the job*. He may very well do that anyway at second base, where the stakes are lower and it’s easier to hide a poor defender (see: Murphy, Daniel).
* Reminder: Kieboom’s professional experience at 3B is ten (10) games
But we’re headed into 2020, not 2010. It’s a first-place team and not a last-place team. And the system is not nearly as deep as it was then. I know because I’ve been covering the Nationals minor leagues for the past ten seasons.
Which brings us to those six words above this post and the picture below them.
If the conventional wisdom is that you don’t put a rookie at 3B and let him learn a new position, then you either have to sign a free agent for the short term or trade for a long-term replacement. In the case of the former, you could sign someone on the cheap and wait for Luis Garcia—who does have significant experience playing there—to complete his development in 2020.
But if you’re considering the latter, you’re going to have to consider what the Nats have to trade with.
Folks may not want to hear this or believe it, but Washington is a lower-third system that’s extremely top-heavy. Its #4 Prospect (per Baseball America) just turned 25. Number 8 got hammered like a Kennedy at an open bar in the GCL this summer and is reportedly dealing with shoulder issues. Number 9, a position player is coming off elbow surgery in 2018 and played in just three games in 2019. Same for Number 10, who did not pitch at all in the minors this season – not even in the Arizona Fall League, which is often used to give injured pitchers a chance to rehab.
The point is that beyond Kieboom and Garcia, there’s not much the Nationals can offer in a trade for a starter. If Rizzo can find a seller who will only take one of those two to get a young, my hat’s off to him; Lord know he needs it to avoid a sunburn. But it seems fairly obvious to me (and I could be wrong) that it’s going to take both of those players (and maybe more) to get what Washington needs.