Here's how the Nats could replace Rendon at 3B

January 4th, 2020

No matter how long the euphoria of winning a World Series lasts for the Nationals, it does little to clear the cloud over third base that continues to grow each day for them. Anthony Rendon has moved on to the Angels, meaning the production from Washington's top position player and National League Most Valuable Player Award finalist from a year ago needs to be replaced.

There is no replacing Rendon and his 7.0 bWAR from 2019 (5.6 projection in ‘20). But at the very least, the Nationals can try.

Here’s an evaluation of a few of Washington’s options at the hot corner:

The good? A projected 4.7 WAR in 2020 would give Donaldson the 18th highest among position players in MLB. Among Nats, that would place him behind just Max Scherzer, Juan Soto and Stephen Strasburg. It would also rank him ahead of big names like Manny Machado, José Altuve, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Bryce Harper, among others.

What’s more, Donaldson’s 144 wRC+ since 2013 is the most among third baseman. Next up: Rendon at 128. If you want a middle-of-the-lineup threat to protect Soto, Donaldson is as close as you can get on the free-agent market.

The potential con of signing Donaldson is that while he proved this past season he can get through an entire season healthy, it was still just his first campaign with at least 150 games played since 2016. The former American League MVP Award winner is also 34. Handing him a four-year contract, which he’s reportedly been offered from multiple teams, could be a potential risk. The money it would take to sign Donaldson would also take away from addressing some of Washington's other glaring needs. But if you’re going to really replace Rendon, this is as close as you’re going to get.

Plan 2: Trade

The biggest third-base names rumored to be potentially available via trade are Kris Bryant (4.8 projected 2020 WAR), Kyle Seager (2.4) and Nolan Arenado (4.9), though the latter has not yet been linked to the Nationals. There are clear benefits to the first two. Bryant will be 28 when the 2020 season starts, is a former NL MVP Award winner and remains under control through ‘21, pending his grievance ruling. Or the Nationals could look to Seager, who is averaging 24 homers and 82 RBIs each of the past eight seasons.

But there are trade-offs. Bryant would take quite the package to lock up, and the Nationals don’t have the deepest farm system and aren’t eager to part with any of their young Major League-ready young stars. Meanwhile, Seager’s $19.5 million salary in 2020 is just a hair over what Bryant is expected to receive in arbitration ($18.5 million, per MLB Trade Rumors) for inferior projected production. Like every trade, these two candidates have give and take.

Plan 3: A platoon of and

Should the Nationals miss out on Josh Donaldson and neg on acquiring the likes of Kris Bryant, Kyle Seager or even Nolan Arenado, a cheaper rotating cast of characters is the most likely route.

On Friday, who might make up that platoon became clearer when the Nationals reportedly signed Castro to a two-year, $12 million deal, a source told’s Mark Feinsand. Though Washington sees Castro filling in at second base, the 42 starts he made at third last season make him an option to cover the hot corner should one of the club's white whales not end up in D.C.

Cabrera, who joined Washington as an August pickup, could very well become a second option. Cabrera voiced his desire to return at the end of the championship run, and sources told MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal recently that the two sides have gone so far as to exchange proposals for a potential return.

“He fits a nice role for us,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said recently of Cabrera. “We know the player. I love the makeup and the character of him, specifically.”

Kieboom, the Nats’ top prospect per MLB Pipeline, seems destined for the Major League roster at least at some point in 2020. With Trea Turner locked in at short, his quickest path would be through second base -- where he is projected to fit in long-term -- or third.

If third is the destination, Kieboom has 82 2/3 innings under his belt at the position, all of which came with Triple-A Fresno in 2019. However, he made four errors during that span compared to six in 345 1/3 total innings at second.

While Kieboom's bat struggled in a small sample size at the Major League level when Turner was injured last season, it played well with Fresno: a .303/.409/.493 slash line with 43 extra-base hits and 79 RBIs in 412 at-bats.

“I think he’s very, very close to Major League ready,” Rizzo said. “… If I feel he’s ready to make the club -- and make an impact on the club -- he’ll certainly get an opportunity.”