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Nationals agree to deal with Brian Dozier

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USA TODAY Sports

Nationals agree to deal with Brian Dozier

The Nationals reached a one-year, $9 million deal with second baseman Brian Dozier on Thursday morning, according to a source, landing a home run hitter and quality glove to all but complete their offseason -- outside of Bryce Harper.

General manager Mike Rizzo often said the team would be satisfied starting the season with a platoon of Wilmer Difo and Howie Kendrick. As the market for second baseman crept along, Rizzo began to shift his stance. He eventually came to an agreement with Dozier, who hit 21 home runs last season while playing for the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Signing Dozier allows the Nationals to have enough depth among their second base trio. It also does not stunt the path of premier prospect Carter Kieboom, who is expected to arrive in the majors at some point this season and will likely start out at second base despite being a natural shortstop. Trea Turner holds that spot in the big leagues.

Dozier, entering his age-32 season, rose to prominence in Minnesota when he became an All-Star in 2015 before hitting 42 home runs in 2016. He hit 34 more in 2017 and won a Gold Glove at second base, where he has played 910 of 993 career games.

His arrival, if just for a year, provides the Nationals a trio of things they could use: The first is more overall power on the team. It comes cheap in this instance at $9 million. The second is a quality glove at second base. Daniel Murphy’s lacking defense was a detriment at the spot in recent years and the organization was adamant it wanted to get better up the middle. Third, it provides a sure answer to the position. Dozier should be set to play 130-140 games, repositioning Difo as a utility infielder and Kendrick, who is coming off an Achilles tendon tear but expects to be ready for spring training, as a pinch-hitter.

Dozier also provides further lineup depth. He’s a right-handed hitter who has more power against right-handed pitchers but also hits for a better average against left-handed throwers. One version of a Nationals lineup could feature Dozier’s power all the way down in the eighth spot.

Adding Dozier gives the Nationals their fifth former All-Star as a new addition to the roster this offseason. Starting pitcher Patrick Corbin, reliever Trevor Rosenthal and new catchers Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki have all made appearances in the midsummer classic.

The signing completes Rizzo’s offseason to-do list. Now, he, and everyone else, waits on Harper.

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Don't worry Nationals fans, Anthony Rendon was never going to be a Dodger

Don't worry Nationals fans, Anthony Rendon was never going to be a Dodger

While Nationals fans are understandably disappointed Anthony Rendon is no longer a member of the Nationals, they can rest easy knowing he didn't see himself signing the the NL rival Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers never made an offer to Rendon, per The Athletic, after "sensing that he didn’t want to play in Los Angeles." He instead signed with the Los Angeles Angels, inking a seven-year, $245 million deal to play for the California team that receives considerably less media attention than its in-state rival.

Now entrenched in the AL on the other side of the country, Rendon won't face the Nationals very often nor will his team's play have any effect on Washington's playoff chances from year to year. It was a best-case scenario for fans after it became likely he wouldn't be returning to Washington.

After being spurned by Rendon and losing out on top free-agent pitchers Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, the Dodgers are still looking to make their first big move of the offseason.

There's still plenty of time for them to make a move, but Los Angeles can expect little sympathy from Nationals fans that Rendon won't be suiting up in Dodger blue for the next seven years.

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Nationals trading for a third baseman is possible -- as long as it’s not Nolan Arenado

Nationals trading for a third baseman is possible -- as long as it’s not Nolan Arenado

Here’s the list of players on the Nationals’ active roster who could play third base: Wilmer Difo, Jake Noll, Adrián Sánchez, Howie Kendrick, Carter Kieboom. Career major-league starts at the position: Difo, 29; Noll, one; Sánchez, nine; Kendrick, 25; Kieboom, zero. 

Such is the state of third base for the defending World Series champions. Not good. 

Which makes Josh Donaldson’s agent smile and any semi-skilled third baseman with a pulse a possible target. Possible trades? Count the Nationals in. On most. Not on Nolan Arenado. That’s a non-starter because Washington is not going to send assets (prospects) for a contract it was unwilling to give Anthony Rendon in the first place. Zero chance. Zilch.

However, Kris Bryant is more intriguing depending on the years and ask -- as always with trades. Beyond him and Kyle Seager, is there another third baseman the Nationals could pursue in a trade? The question takes on weight because of the aforementioned toothless list of in-house candidates and shallow free-agent talent pool beyond Donaldson.

Any trade consideration needs to begin with an understanding of the parameters Washington is working from. Last season, Rendon’s one-year deal to avoid arbitration earned him $18.8 million. When Washington looks at the cost for its next third baseman, the number will be similar to last season’s cost for Rendon. A bump in the competitive balance tax threshold, plus savings at first base and catcher, provide the Nationals wiggle room for increases in spots. So, $18-25 million annually for a third baseman is in play.

Second, the Nationals’ farm system needs to be taken into account. Their 2018 first-round pick, Mason Denaburg, had shoulder problems last year. Mike Rizzo said at the Winter Meetings that Denaburg is healthy and progressing. But, the early shoulder irritation for a high school pitcher who also had problems his senior year with biceps tendinitis provides his stock pause. He’s a would-be trade chip. So is Kieboom.

But, what is Kieboom’s value? What damage did it receive during his rocky, and brief, appearance in the majors last season? Did his potent hitting in the Pacific Coast League after being sent back mitigate his big-league struggles? 

Beyond Kieboom, the farm system’s next tier is manned by Luis Garcia, 2019 first-round pick Jackson Rutledge, Wil Crowe and Tim Cate, among others. Only Garcia is part of MLB.com’s top-100 prospects list (which is more of a guide than an industry standard).

So, when Bryant or Seager -- or anyone not named Arenado -- are mentioned, know where the Nationals are coming from. If they are positioned to take on money, they don’t want to use assets to do it (this is the Donaldson Scenario). If they can save money, find a solid player and retain the few high-end assets, then a trade could be in play (this would be the Seager Scenario, if Seattle pays some of the contract). 

The Bryant Scenario is the most appealing and challenging. He’s the best player of the group. However, acquiring him would be high-cost and short-term. Bryant has two years remaining before he can become a free agent -- with an outside shot at becoming a free agent after next season because of a grievance he filed against the Cubs for service-time manipulation. Obtaining him would likely focus on multiple pitching prospects.

There is no Arenado Scenario. Just a reminder.

Piled together, Washington is in a tough spot. What it has is not enough. What it needs will be costly.

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