On Saturday evening, Bill Ladson of MLB.com first reported that the Washington Nationals made a trade with the Kansas City Royals for minor league infielder Brandon Laird. He was given to Washington in exchange for a player to be named later.
While this seems like a minor move now, this is a move that could make a considerable impact down the road. The Nationals don’t have to worry much about Laird’s contract as he’ll be arbitration eligible in 2017 and won’t become a free agent until 2020. Mike Rizzo has him for a long time and that could open many doors in the future.
Laird was drafted in the 27th round of the 2007 amateur draft. He made his big league debut in 2011 and has played in a total of 53 MLB games. He’s got a career slash line of .197/.255/.370 with six HR and 16 RBIs. In four seasons playing triple-A ball, Laird has a slash line of .262/.304/.421 with 49 HR and 237 RBIs. He’s got some pop, but it’s nothing to brag about.
What makes this trade more intriguing, however, is what he can do defensively. Laird has played over 500 minor league games at third base and over 200 at first base. He’s a solid defender with a career fielding percentage of 98 percent at both bases combined. There’s potential, but it’s raw.
Luckily, the Nationals don’t need that potential right away. They currently have Adam LaRoche locked in at first base and Ryan Zimmerman has always been the man in the hot corner. However, the transitioning from third to first for Zimmerman has begun. He’s practiced at first base several times this Spring Training and there have been talk of him getting some time over there during the season. LaRoche is in his contract year and there’s nothing that says he will be back next season.
Replacing Zimmerman at third base will likely Anthony Rendon. The latter is a natural third baseman playing second, and he’s always been viewed as the heir apparent to Zimmerman’s spot. After Rendon, there doesn’t really appear to be much competition for his spot. With little depth at the position, that could be a reason for this trade.
As stated earlier, the effect of the trade won’t be felt until after this season. If Laird progresses in the minors and improves as a hitter, we could see him in Spring Training next year competing for a spot on bench or even at first or third base. The purpose of this trade was to acquire some cheap depth that could lead to something in the future. At this stage in the game, I wouldn’t expect Laird to become Washington’s next superstar, but that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute.
Rizzo has always been conscious of keeping the Nationals’ farm system full of future stars and diamonds in the rough. That philosophy is exactly what has made the Nationals one of the premiere teams in MLB. Trading to pick up Laird is another move to stock the minors with some raw talent that has the potential to contribute at the major league level.
Another option for Laird is future trade bait. We’ve seen a couple times Rizzo use a package of minor leaguers to pick up a big name player (i.e. Doug Fister). Since they’ll have control of Laird for several years, his name could possibly come up in future trade discussions to sweeten a deal.
Laird could either become a future bench player for the Nationals, or he could simply be used in a trade down the road. However he’s used, the Nationals have made a minor acquisition that could return a substantial payoff down the road.