The Washington Nationals, fresh off a World Series victory, have had a pretty busy winter, including most recently, adding reliever Will Harris on a three-year, $24M deal. And while they may still have eyes for an impact third baseman, they have added to their infield via free agency just now.
With a familiar name, too:
Free-agent infielder Starlin Castro in agreement with #Nationals, pending physical, sources tell The Athletic. Move would not take them out of Donaldson sweepstakes. Plan is for Castro to play second base.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 3, 2020
Castro, 29, hit just .270/.300/.436 (91 wRC+) last season, but was an above-average offensive contributor in each of the seasons before that. His defense (at second base) has also been trending in the right direction according to some defensive metrics, so that’s something, too. He was always one of my favorite Cubs back in the day, and I’m happy to see him continue his career in a higher-profile, more competitive, and all-around better situation than Miami.
Speaking of which, as Rosenthal points out, Castro is expected to take over second base for the Nationals, which decidedly does NOT take them out of the running for a free agent like Josh Donaldson (or a trade candidate like Kris Bryant). What this does do, however, is potentially make 22-year-old second base prospect Carter Kieboom ever-so-slightly more available in a trade. Castro certainly does not “block” Kieboom, but it would make parting with him in a deal more acceptable.
And in case I’m not spelling this out enough, Kieboom’s name has been mentioned in third base trade rumors in the past (though we’ve always found Victor Robles a more suitable return for someone like Kris Bryant … for obvious reasons). Kieboom, for what it’s worth, is the Nationals top prospect and the 20th overall prospect in MLB (according to MLB Pipeline).
UPDATE: Nothing huge, but it’s a healthy two-year deal for Castro ….
Second baseman Starlin Castro is in agreement with the Washington Nationals on a two-year, $12 million contract, pending a physical, a source familiar with the deal tells ESPN. @Ken_Rosenthal was first with the agreement.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 3, 2020
UPDATE 2: Just a fun fact.
Most career hits, players born in the 1990s
1,617 Starlin Castro
1,568 José Altuve
1,324 Mike Trout
1,200 Manny Machado
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) January 3, 2020
UPDATE 3: Just a little more confirmation that the Nationals are not out on Donaldson:
The Starlin Castro signing won't impact the Nationals' pursuit of Josh Donaldson, as Castro will play second base for Washington. The Nationals, Braves and Twins are still seen as the current favorites for Donaldson, who is expected to land a four-year deal worth $100M or more.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) January 3, 2020