WASHINGTON -- The Winter Meetings begin in two weeks, and the Nationals have already started to cross out some items on their offseason to-do list. They have improved their bullpen by acquiring Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough, and they made a much-needed addition at catcher in Kurt Suzuki.:: Submit a
WASHINGTON -- The Winter Meetings begin in two weeks, and the Nationals have already started to cross out some items on their offseason to-do list. They have improved their bullpen by acquiring Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough, and they made a much-needed addition at catcher in Kurt Suzuki.
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The looming question of Bryce Harper's whereabouts next season will continue to hover over the Nationals until he makes his decision this offseason. However, Washington has made it clear that it will not wait for Harper as it begins to fill its other needs. Despite the silence on the Harper front, there is still plenty to discuss in today's Inbox, including questions about the Nats' open spots at catcher, starting pitcher and second base.
Are Carter Kieboom and/or Luis Garcia close enough to combine with Howie Kendrick and Wilmer Difo at second base? Or will general manager Mike Rizzo need to bring in another player?
-- Zay, George Mason, Va.
This ties in nicely with a report from MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi today, which named the Nationals as one of the teams that has had preliminary talks with DJ LeMahieu and has monitored the market for infielders Jed Lowrie, Josh Harrison and Marwin Gonzalez. This makes sense, despite Rizzo's comments earlier this month that the Nats are set with what they already have on the roster at second base. While upgrading at second is likely not at the top of Washington's priority list, the combination of Kendrick, coming off a torn Achilles at age 35, and light-hitting Difo does not inspire confidence.
I think the Nationals are wary of signing a second baseman to a multi-year contract because Kieboom seems close to making his Major League debut (perhaps in 2019) and Garcia is not far behind. Kieboom and Garcia are the Nats' No. 2 and No. 3 prospects, respectively, per MLB Pipeline. Signing one of those utility players -- in order to fill in at second base now, but also to have the capability to come off the bench as a pinch-hitter and maybe even play some first base if needed -- makes a lot of sense to me. I absolutely think Washington should pursue one of those options.
It would be heavy on the pockets, but what about Robinson Cano? The lineup will need a left-handed bat to replace you-know-who.
-- Chris W., San Diego, Calif.
I would be shocked if this is the Nationals' solution. In The Athletic this morning, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal wrote that the Mariners are "actively trying" to trade Cano, but Cano is still owed $120 million over the next five seasons. Washington basically has no history of acquiring that kind of money via trade, especially for a player who is 36 years old, nor does it have contracts of near or equal value to trade back. And having Cano under contract for an extended period of time would present a potential long-term block to Kieboom or Garcia at second base.
Does Suzuki take care of the Nationals' catching needs, or are they going to pursue another as well?
-- Alec R.
I did not get a chance to weigh in on the Suzuki signing last week when I was on vacation, and it was a very necessary move for the Nationals to make. It's been said many times, but the Nats were getting virtually no production from their catchers over the past two seasons, and Suzuki should at least present an upgrade offensively. That being said, I do have questions about the sort of workload he can handle -- he's 35 and has averaged 97 games per year the past three seasons.
If Suzuki is best used behind the plate for about 100 games next season, I think the Nats need a much more reliable backup than Spencer Kieboom or Pedro Severino, neither of whom showed any extended signs of being capable Major League hitters last season. The issue for Severino is that he is out of options next season, so I would guess it is likely that Washington gives some combination of he and Kieboom -- both of whom are still young -- the chance to serve as backups.
Is Dallas Keuchel the natural choice to replace Gio as a LHP?
-- Zay, George Mason, Va.
If you are referring to left-handed starting pitchers available on the market, I think Patrick Corbin seems like a better fit for the Nationals as the replacement for Giovany Gonzalez. Corbin is younger, coming off his best season and still trending upward in his career. Keuchel's best days might be behind him, even though he is still a very good pitcher. Corbin would be more expensive, but if the Nats do not re-sign Harper, there is room in the budget for a big free-agent splash.
Additionally, I do not think the Nationals are going to limit themselves just to left-handed pitchers in their pursuit for another starter, so that leaves several other options open, including a trade. I do think the Nats will aim high in their rotation, looking to add toward the front end instead of the back.
Do we know if the Nats have any interest in Japanese pitcher Yusei Kikuchi? He is a lefty.
-- @roycap1963, Albany, N.Y.
I am strictly speculating here, but the Nationals have no history of chasing top international players from Asian countries. They have been reluctant, because they believe they can get more proven and less expensive talent from other areas without paying posting fees and then getting into bidding wars. I would be surprised if Washington were a major player for Kikuchi, even if he could serve as a potential solution to its rotation issues.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.