The Nationals may not have found an obvious replacement for Anthony Rendon at third base this offseason, but general manager Mike Rizzo feels comfortable giving top prospect Carter Kieboom an opportunity to earn the job in spring training with several veterans capable of handling the position should he fail to prove he's ready.
"We're not looking to make a trade," Rizzo said at a press conference in West Palm Beach on Friday. "It's nothing that has been a priority to us in the offseason. Like I said, we've handled all the options that we need to have at third base through the offseason and I think that it shows with the roster construction about how versatile this group is and how effective they can be."
Rendon was the Nationals' everyday third baseman from 2014-19; he put together a career year last season with a 1.010 OPS, 34 home runs and an MLB-best 126 runs batted in as he finished third in NL MVP award voting. But after Washington re-signed starter Stephen Strasburg to a seven-year, $245 million deal at the Winter Meetings, Rendon inked a similar contract with the Los Angeles Angels.
That left a significant hole in the middle of the Nationals' lineup. Rizzo said at WinterFest that Josh Donaldson was one of their free-agent targets until he agreed to a four-year, $92 million deal with the Minnesota Twins that proved to be too expensive for Washington's taste.
On the trade market, Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado have been heavily rumored to be available in talks but The Athletic reported negotiations the Chicago Cubs for Bryant "have gone nowhere" and Arenado was never connected to Washington.
Kieboom, 21, will now have the chance to break camp with the team after switching from his natural position of shortstop over to third this offseason. The infield prospect appeared in 11 games for Washington last season but struggled both defensively and at the plate. He said at WinterFest that he gained 15 pounds this offseason and is excited to prove that he can handle third base.
"Carter is a guy that we're hoping takes the reins and runs with it," Rizzo said. "He'll get every opportunity to make the club and to be our everyday guy. But we've got a lot of contingency plans if that doesn't work out. We've got some really professional players that know how to play the position and I like our versatility. We've got sever guys who can play in that spot and we feel really good about all those options."
Those contingency plans include Starlin Castro, who the Nationals signed to a two-year deal this offseason, as well as familiar faces Asdrúbal Cabrera and Howie Kendrick. All three veterans can play multiple positions and should be in the mix for the starting job at second base as well.
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Mike Rizzo says Nationals have no plans to trade for starting third baseman originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington