Since their move in 2005, the Washington Nationals have had problems filling their seemingly perpetual hole at second base. From Jose Vidro to Junior Spivey to Danny Espinosa to Anthony Rendon, second base has been a revolving door for the Nationals.
Washington may have found their second baseman, and third baseman, of the future in the aforementioned Rendon. But the fact that Rendon may make a move back to third at some point could end up working out poorly as Washington seems to never have a set in stone player for second base. This subject comes to the forefront because of the free agency of star second baseman Robinson Cano, who at 31 has no significant injury history and has shown no signs of deteriorating offensively or defensively. Washington could go out and spend big money on him to allow Rendon to have more seasoning in Triple-A or perhaps package him in a deal for a star pitcher since reports have surfaced that Washington is planning to try and add an elite starter.
The amount of money Cano will command in a contract combined with the impending extensions we believe Washington will dole out for Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg and later on, Bryce Harper, will probably push the Nationals away from the solution since GM Mike Rizzo probably would prefer to lock up his own guys before spending big on an outsider which can sometimes poorly affect the in-house players. What Washington probably has considered is adding a second baseman to their bench.
This winter’s free agent class is relatively dry, though when it comes to second basemen there are some intriguing names aside from Cano. One name that jumps out is Kelly Johnson, who is coming off a .235/.305/.410, 16 home run, 52 RBI season with the Tampa Bay Rays. Johnson has ties to new manager Matt Williams‘ old team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and at 32 may still have some left in the tank. But his batting average has steadily stayed under .250 every year since 2010 when he batted .284. However, Johnson is coming off of his lowest strikeout season since 2010 with 99, but he only played in 118 games this season. Johnson could be brought in on a one-year deal with incentives and platoon with Rendon to become a quasi Chad Tracy as the lefty power bat off the bench.
Another name that pops out is Omar Infante, who is coming off a solid .318/.345/.450 season with the Detroit Tigers. Infante knows the Nationals’ division, having spent time in Atlanta and Florida/Miami, and is much more of a doubles hitter. He has not hit more than 16 home runs in his career. Infante could provide speed and defense off the bench, though he is lacking the power Johnson theoretically provides. Infante may be pushed out of Detroit since many believe the Tigers will make some sort of push for Cano, but if Cano signs elsewhere Washington may be turned down because of the bench role they would want Infante in.
Second base has been a black hole for Washington since they moved, but now may be the time to add some bench depth for that specific position. Rendon’s rookie season was solidly unspectacular, and adding a veteran could seriously help him as well as allow Washington to platoon second base if Rendon has the dreaded “sophomore slump.” It won’t be talked about much, but second base could be a position Washington looks to deepen this winter.