WASHINGTON--As the Nationals embark on the 2020 season, they’re slated to do so without an everyday third baseman. That’s a far cry from their usual approach at the hot corner, as the team has always entered the year with either Ryan Zimmerman or Anthony Rendon penciled in at third.
There’s still time for the club to sign Josh Donaldson, the top remaining free agent left on the market. But while general manager Mike Rizzo won’t “close the door on anybody,” he maintains that he’s happy with the depth Washington has built at the position.
“We don’t see it as a hole, we see it as a strength,” Rizzo said at the Nationals' annual WinterFest event on Saturday. “We got a lot of versatility. Of course, you’re not going to replicate or replace Anthony Rendon and his numbers on the field, his presence in the clubhouse, things he does in the community. But we’re going to be a different team.”
Rizzo mentioned Asdrúbal Cabrera, Starlin Castro, Howie Kendrick and Carter Kieboom as potential options to play the position in 2020. Although he hasn’t yet discussed lineup construction with manager Davey Martinez, Rizzo thinks this distribution-of-wealth approach will give Washington a different look but still allow it to compete for another championship.
“It’s by design that we give our manager flexibility to do what he feels comfortable with that given day,” Rizzo said. “It’s a long season. We needed about 48 players last year to win the world title and this thing takes a village. It takes a lot of players. You’ve got to have great depth and you have to have players that are willing to accept the challenge if being versatile.”
The Nationals’ 40-man roster is at 38, which would leave room for the potential signings of both Zimmerman and Donaldson. But Washington is projected to be close to the luxury-tax threshold and signing Donaldson alone would be enough to push the team over.
But even if Washington brings in Donaldson, the club will have a new look regardless. Castro, Cabrera and Kendrick join a deep infield that also includes Trea Turner and Eric Thames. None of them have the kind of ceiling that Rendon did, but Rizzo argues the team is still going to be competitive in 2020.
“We like our versatility, we like our depth at the position and we’ve got a good mixture of young players that are up and coming and veterans that have proven themselves,” Rizzo said. We’re “giving Davey a lot of tools to work with to keep the bench sharp and to keep the everyday players fresh.”
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