As we continue our look at the 2018 Nationals roster position-by-position, we turn our attention towards the infield, a group that produced a wide range of results.
Here is a breakdown of how Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner and others fared this past season...
2018 Nationals Position Review: Infielders
Position: Third base
2018 salary: $12.3 million
2018 stats: .308/.374/.535, 136 G, 597 PA, 529 AB, 163 H, 88 R, 24 HR, 92 RBI, 44 2B, 2 3B, 2 SB, 55 BB, 82 SO, 137 OPS+, bWAR 4.2
After finishing sixth in NL MVP voting with a career season in 2017, Rendon put up similar numbers in 2018. He missed 26 games, but still managed to hit for a career-best average, knock 24 homers and lift his OPS above .900. He has emerged as one of the best players in the NL despite somehow not making the All-Star team once in his career.
Rendon now enters an interesting offseason. He isn't a free agent until 2020, but stands to receive a big-time raise in arbitration. The Nats really should make a decision about his future sooner than later. If he keeps stacking .900-plus OPS seasons, he could enter 2020 free agency as one of the very best players on the market.
If you're going to keep him, sign him in the next two winters or consider trading him if you decide to spend your money elsewhere.
2018 salary: $577,200
2018 stats: .271/.344/.416, 162 G, 740 PA, 664 AB, 180 H, 103 R, 19 HR, 73 RBI, 27 2B, 6 3B, 43 SB, 69 BB, 132 SO, 100 OPS+, bWAR 4.1
Turner had a rough year off-the-field with his social media scandal, but within the lines he posted a solid Age 25 season. He played in all 162 games after missing 64 the season before due to injury. He lead the league with 43 steals. He also hit a career-high 19 homers and played sound defense at shortstop.
What Turner needs to prove next is that he can get on base like he did in 2016, when he was second in NL Rookie of the Year voting. He needs to walk more and strike out less, and raise his batting average. All of those things will be important if he wants to keep batting at the top of the order. Still, he seems to have a firm place in the Nats' future.
Position: First base
2018 salary: $14 million
2018 stats: .264/.337/.486, 85 G, 323 PA, 288 AB, 76 H, 33 R, 13 HR, 51 RBI, 21 2B, 2 3B, 1 SB, 30 BB, 55 SO, 114 OPS+, bWAR 1.3
The 2018 season was unfortunately all too familiar for Zimmerman. When he was healthy, he was productive. Maybe he wasn't his 2017, MVP votes version, but he was solid and the Nats needed his bat. But the problem was what has long been his issue. He couldn't stay on the field and was limited to just over half of a season.
Zimmerman may have a bad string of luck over the years, but the bottom-line is that he has a serious availability problem. And now he's 34 years old and entering the final guaranteed year of his long contract extension that was signed back in 2012. The 2020 season is a team option worth $18 million and if he doesn't have a good 2019, it's hard to see the Nats honoring that when they can buy him out for just $2 million.
Position: Second base/shortstop
2018 salary: $557,900
2018 stats: .230/.298/.350, 148 G, 456 PA, 408 AB, 94 H, 55 R, 7 HR, 42 RBI, 14 2B, 7 3B, 10 SB, 39 BB, 82 SO, 71 OPS+, bWAR 0.1
With injuries for Daniel Murphy and then his trade to the Cubs in August, Difo got an excellent opportunity in 2018. He played in 148 games and started 104 of them. Unfortunately for him, a lot of his numbers tracked in the wrong direction from the season before.
It's pretty clear that Difo isn't a major league starter at this point. He will likely be a utility bench player next season behind Turner and whomever they bring in to start at second base.
Position: First base
2018 salary: 35
2018 stats: .248/.328/.476, 86 G, 235 PA, 206 AB, 51 H, 26 R, 13 HR, 40 RBI, 8 2B, 24 BB, 64 SO, 109 OPS+, bWAR -0.3
Injuries forced the Nats to bring in outside help in April, so they signed Reynolds, who had ties to the area as a Virginia-native, alum of UVa and a former member of the Orioles. He came in and did exactly what he has done for a long time in the majors. He hit homers and carried an OPS over .800, but didn't hit for a high average and was a liability on defense.
For what he was asked to do, Reynolds was solid. They needed him in a pinch and he fulfilled his role. The question for him is how much did he prove in order to get another major league contract. It probably won't be in Washington, but Reynolds should get a bench role somewhere next season.
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