The Washington Nationals have signed a free agent infielder, but it is not star third baseman Josh Donaldson. Washington has agreed to a two-year contract with Starlin Castro, according The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and the New York Post's Joel Sherman. USA Today's Bob Nightengale says the deal is worth $12 million. The team has not yet confirmed the signing.
Rosenthal reports the Nationals plan to play Castro at second base and they remain in the hunt for Donaldson. Top prospect Carter Kieboom can play the infield and signing Donaldson in addition to Castro would seem to block Kieboom's path to MLB playing time. That's something to worry down the road, however.
Castro, 30 in March, hit .270/.300/.436 with a career-high 22 home runs while playing second base and third base with the Marlins in 2019. He is a 10-year veteran who already has north of 1,600 career hits, though he's not yet taken the step toward stardom so many expected during his prospect days.
The Nationals re-signed postseason hero Howie Kendrick to a one-year contract earlier this offseason and the Castro signing likely puts Kendrick at first base, his best position at this point, full-time. Here is Washington's current lineup with the caveat the Donaldson pursuit is ongoing:
- SS Trea Turner
- RF Adam Eaton
- 1B Howie Kendrick
- LF Juan Soto
- C Kurt Suzuki
- 2B Starlin Castro
- CF Victor Robles
- 3B Carter Kieboom
- Pitcher's spot
Washington reportedly maintains interest in franchise icon Ryan Zimmerman, who would push Kendrick into the super utility role he thrived at last season. Should the Nationals miss out on Donaldson, they could put Zimmerman at first, Kendrick at second, and Castro at third, though that is a suboptimal defensively alignment.
In addition to Castro and Kendrick, the Nationals also re-signed Stephen Strasburg and Yan Gomes earlier this offseason, . They did lose star third baseman Anthony Rendon to free agency, however, hence their opening at the hot corner.
Cot's Baseball Contracts has the club's 2020 payroll at $184 million without Castro, still well below the $208 million luxury tax threshold. That should be more than enough breathing room to sign Donaldson. If they miss out on him, they could pivot to Zimmerman and other players.
. Thirteen of our top 50 free agents remain unsigned, including four of the top 15.