Because citizens do not see upgrading to the second base as an offseason priority


Wilmer Difo, above, and veteran Howie Kendrick should be the second-rate Nationals short-term solution. (John McDonnell / The Washington Post)

At the start of the baseball offseason season, the Washington Nationals agenda seemed clear: tackle Bryce Harper's situation, strengthen the bullpen, add a first-line starter or depth to the rotation, and enhance the catcher and the second base.

But Mike Rizzo has already cut that list, the director general of the Nationals who says he feels comfortable with what the team currently has in its role in the position – a probable platoon of the veteran Howie Kendrick and the infanice Wilmer Difo – and that the organization is already developing perspectives to potentially play there in the future.

"We like our situation in the winter with Trea [Turner] and Howie and Difo e [Carter] Kieboom behind the scenes. We have [Luis] Garcia behind the scenes that we do not feel far away, "Rizzo said last week at the baseball general managers' meetings in Carlsbad, California." We like our depth; we really like the level of skill there.

"We have some extreme high-ceiling players that we think will be really good performances for us, and we've got a lot of them, so I think it's not a necessity for us or a need for us It should be something we thought was good for us . "

This does not exclude the possibility that Rizzo will look at a second baseman in the free agent market this winter, but it means that the team no longer considers the position as a pressing problem towards 2019. Kendrick, a 35-year-old with an average of .291 , missed almost all of last season with a torn Achilles tendon and will return for the last year of his contract with the national teams. Difo, a 26-year-old who can interpret both interbase and second base, has the moonlight as an everyday player, but for the most part has remained in a role of utility during his two main seasons. Then there are Kieboom and Garcia, two of the brightest prospects of the National, which Rizzo believes can easily make the transition from the interbase (their natural position) to the second base.

Kieboom is 21 years old, was named Best National League player for 2018, shone in the Arizona Fall League in October and is expected to start next season with AA-class senators Harrisburg before he possibility of scaling the system. Rizzo said Wednesday that he expects Kieboom to make his league debut at some point in 2019. Garcia is a little behind Kieboom from a development standpoint; the eighteen year old spent the season sailing the two levels of the Class A and probably will pass all this season coming to minors.

But this is what everyone thought that midfielder Juan Soto was doing right now last year, and now he could win the National League debut of the year. This does not mean that Kieboom or Garcia will have the kind of historical success that Soto did at age 19, but it is worth noting that Rizzo does not hesitate to give players a chance at a young age. So Kieboom and / or Garcia could have a chance at the second base in the not too distant future, with Kendrick and Difo likely to stop meanwhile in the meantime.

"We like guys who can play shortstop because we think it's an easier transition to stop," Rizzo said last week. "So we hear it [Kieboom] able to manage the position at the level of major league, but he and Garcia will manage both the transition to the second base, or the third base, we think perfectly ".

Citing both the second and third bases as a possibility for Kieboom and Garcia, Rizzo has clarified one thing: citizens have no immediate intentions to move Turner, their 25-year-old shortstop that ended 2018 with a career record at home (19 ). and RBI (73) and led the NL in stolen bases (43) while appearing in all 162 games of the regular season. The third base is only in the conversation because Anthony Rendon has not signed 2019, but he is likely to be signing a long-term contract to block that position in the near future.

This leaves the second base as a short and long-term requirement for citizens, and Rizzo has recognized that someone will have to change position to make their plans work.

If the Nationals immersed themselves in a free agency for a second base player – even if they seem more likely to spend on an initial pitcher and catcher – the options include D.J. LeMahieu, Jed Lowrie, Josh Harrison, Brian Dozier and Marwin Gonzalez. Gonzalez's twist could make a lot of sense, since he plays on multiple positions, and could also give the Nationals a left-handed option behind Ryan Zimmerman in the first base.

Yet it seems more likely, based on Rizzo's assessment of what the Nationals already have, who stand in second place and use their resources elsewhere. Kendrick provides a veteran bat and the Difo has hit the national energy forces, and even a bit of power, when he is given the opportunity. Difo will have to clean up the mental errors on the field and on the basic routes and reduce his strikeouts to the plate if a pair between him and Kendrick will work. If it does, at least well enough to allow citizens to resist the search for a multi-year solution from outside the organization, it would seem that Kieboom will get the first attempt to make the position later.

Rizzo soon notes that the national team still see Kieboom as a shortstop, but this does not displease him as an option to the second base. Kieboom played second in the Arizona Fall League this year and was named an all star. He plans to work with the former former league base and former base this offseason to perfect his footwork around the bag while turning the double plays. It is the team's next big prospect in line to debut, following recent promotions from Soto, Victor Robles and the pitcher Erick Fedde, and Kieboom's development sees citizens see promises where others may see a need.

"I think he will try very, very easily, he is an athlete, he is a baseball guy, he has an extremely high IQ, and I do not see any problem whatsoever, the transition from the base to the second base," said Rizzo of Kieboom. "We still think of him as a shortstop, we believe he is an important player in the league every day and thinks he can handle that position, but we have a pretty damned right now and will not go anywhere for a po & # 39 ;. "

Read more National coverage by The Post:

Some laugh at $ 400 million for Bryce Harper. Here's how Scott Boras plans to get it.

The offer of citizens to Bryce Harper was the largest free agent deal in the history of US sports. And now?

A great success: Juan Soto, the surprise of the national season, is here to stay

Fancy Stats: NL debutant of the race this year between Juan Soto, Ronald Acuna Jr. is incredibly tense


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