The Nationals addressed their infield for the second straight day by agreeing with the switch-hitting Asdrúbal Cabrera to a one-year contract worth $2.5 million.
But like the reported deal for Starlin Castro on Friday, what this move does more than directly align the infield is set the Nationals up for a backup plan should Josh Donaldson sign elsewhere. The 34-year-old Donaldson is said to have multiple four-year offers worth upwards of $100 million, with the Nats among those teams.
If Donaldson becomes a Nat, Cabrera’s role likely becomes one off the bench with the opportunity of making some starts at second base and potentially first depending how the club addresses its need there. Some combination of Cabrera, Castro, Howie Kendrick and potentially top prospect Carter Kieboom will most likely make up the right side of the infield in this circumstance.
Setting aside $2.5 million for the 34-year-old Cabrera -- which can rise to $3 million with incentives contingent on plate appearances, according to Morosi -- probably does not price the Nationals out on Donaldson. But should the former MVP Award winner choose the Twins or his former team in Atlanta -- the two other teams who have reportedly made offers -- Cabrera’s role becomes more important.
The Nationals could still trade for a third baseman -- the likes of Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado and Kyle Seager have flooded the rumor mill. If that does not happen, or at least if it does not take place until midseason, expect Cabrera and Castro to begin the year at third, with Kieboom also competing for playing time there, too.
Until any of those decisions are made, the Nationals, at the very least, are happy to bring back Cabrera. An August signing from a year ago after being released by Texas, Cabrera scorched his way to 40 RBIs in 146 plate appearances with D.C. before appearing in 12 games of the postseason championship run.
He contains versatility in both the field -- able to play second, third and, for the first time of his career last season, first base -- and with the bat as a switch-hitter. At the very least, he gives the Nationals a blanket of cover should the current iteration of the roster remain stagnant until Opening Day.
“He fits a nice role for us,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said recently. “We know the player. I love the makeup and the character of him, specifically.”
After the championship run, Cabrera voiced his desire to return to D.C., a place he played in 2014 as well.