Inbox: What's the Nationals' plan for 1B?

Beat reporter Jessica Camerato answers Nats fans' questions

November 23rd, 2020

The week after the Nationals added top prospects to their 40-man roster, inked a lefty arm to their bullpen and relocated their Triple-A affiliate, there still are lots of questions to answer ahead of the 2021 season. In the latest edition of the Nationals Inbox, let’s take a look at free agency, filling out the infield and if a young talent has made a case for a starting role.

What's the Nats’ plan at first base? Platoon or everyday guy?
-- @EddieKReid1, via Twitter

The Nationals manned first base by committee this past year with mainly , and , and all are free agents. could return as a part-time option, but that doesn’t account for the whole season.

One everyday player the Nationals have been linked to is standout infielder . On Friday,'s Jon Paul Morosi reported that Washington is one of the teams "showing continued interest," noting the club had also pursued LeMahieu in free agency before he signed with the Yankees in 2019.

The versatile LeMahieu has played first, second, third and shortstop over his 10-year career. He has a .993 fielding percentage across 299 innings at first.

But what stands out even more is the offensive spark he could bring. Pairing the reigning American League (LeMahieu, .364 average) and National League (, .351) batting title winners together certainly would give the Nats' lineup a punch.

Are the Nats considering to be the full-time second baseman now and moving forward?
-- @SDVargo, via Twitter

The Nationals head into the 2021 season with depth -- emerging and veteran -- to weigh as their options at second base.

The 20-year-old García’s Major League career was fast tracked when he jumped from a top prospect to the Nationals' starting second baseman following ’s season-ending right wrist fracture in mid-August. García made 35 starts at second, where he posted a .954 fielding percentage (15 double plays, five errors) over 285 1/3 innings.

Over that time, García began to establish chemistry with shortstop , offering a glimpse into a potential future middle-infield pairing. He also demonstrated a fire for learning by seeking out the mentorship of Soto, and he contributed offensively by batting .276 (37-for-134) with 16 RBIs and two homers.

Meanwhile, a sidelined Castro was so eager to return to action that, shortly after his surgery, he conveyed to manager Dave Martinez, “Just get to the playoffs and I’ll be back there to help you guys.” Castro, 30, was in the midst of his 11th season, hitting .267 (16-for-60) with two homers and four RBIs in 16 games. He is entering the final season of his two-year contract with the Nationals.

Castro’s health will factor into who mans second base in 2021. If he is fully recovered, I would watch for him to bring a veteran presence to the infield at the start of the season, while García could continue to hone his skills and add depth as a backup.

Quick note on García: Look for No. 12, as he recently changed his uniform from No. 62.

Do you see any scenario where Turner would move back to center field where he began his career?
-- @HarborMoon, via Twitter

Once upon a time, Turner played 45 games in center field for the Nationals. That 2016 season seems like many, many years ago, given the way he has established himself as a cornerstone of the roster at shortstop. Turner ranked seventh in NL MVP Award voting this season.

But that does lead into a follow-up question: What will the outfield makeup be next season? The Nationals are watching for to have a bounce-back year in center after he underperformed in 2020 following a Gold Glove Award finalist campaign in '19 while leading baseball in outs above average. Robles, who appeared in 52 games in '20, is preparing for '21 by playing winter ball for the Águilas Cibaeñas in the Dominican Republic.

The outfield position of uncertainty for the Nats is right field. After the team declined Adam Eaton’s option, it remains to be seen if the club acquires a right fielder through the trade/free-agency market, or if it shifts Soto from left field, as it did toward the end of this past season.