As the hopes for Anthony Rendon's return to Washington fade fast following Stephen Strasburg's record seven-year $245 million contract, Josh Donaldson comes more into focus for Nationals faithful.
The Nationals had reported interest in him as far back as mid-November, and if they want to spend big on Strasburg and less on third base rather than spend on Rendon and find a cheaper pitcher, Donaldson represented the most value.
But every team that misses out on Rendon will probably look right to Donaldson, and that reality is reportedly driving up his price.
According to Mark Bowman, there is a growing expectation Donaldson will end up with a four-year contract. That might be a problem given he's entering his age-34 season, but for the Nationals, there isn't a major difference between a four-year deal and a two-year deal for Donaldson.
He's coming off a very productive season in Atlanta, where he hit 37 home runs and drove in 94 runs to go along with a .379 on-base percentage. Realistically, Washington would need at least two years of solid production at third base from him to get ample return on their investment.
Carter Kieboom figures to be in the mix this season at third or second base, but he's much better suited as a middle-infielder. Then, the Nationals have 19-year-old Luis Garcia on the way as one of their top infield prospects.
By the time Garcia hits the majors he'll ideally go to third base to join Kieboom and Trae Turner as Washington's infield of the future.
And as Bowman notes, the DH could be coming to the National League by after the 2021 season. If Donaldson can still slug, that's an easy move for him to make and play out the last two years of his deal.
So while a potential four-year contract can and should cause a bit of sticker shock, the Nationals are constructed where they can take that risk to help their team in the short term should Rendon leave for greener pastures.
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