Carter Kieboom was one of the primary reasons why the Washington Nationals allowed third baseman Anthony Rendon to depart in free agency following the 2019 World Series championship. Kieboom had just finished a season where he dominated the AAA Pacific Coast League, hitting for both average and power, and was under team control. After Rendon rejected Washington’s last contract offer, it appeared that Kieboom would be able to step into the starting role.
In 2020, Kieboom was optioned to the alternate training site in Fredericksburg midway through the shortened 2020 season and finished with a .202 batting average in 99 at-bats. The Nationals and Mike Rizzo hoped that a full spring training in 2021 would help his development.
Yesterday, the Nationals optioned a struggling Kieboom to Triple-A Rochester, which has posed the question: “Is Carter Kieboom’s time with the Nationals coming to an end?”
As I reflect on the fact that Kieboom was given every opportunity to start at third base for Opening Day during Spring Training, is it now fair to think Kieboom will not be in a Washington Nationals uniform for that much longer.? OR… do we think that by optioning Kieboom down to Triple-A, the Nationals leadership hopes that he will gain some confidence and return to the Majors quickly? Before we get to that, I think it is worth figuring out how we got to this point.
You have to start when Dave Martinez and Mike Rizzo met with reporters and gave Kieboom the ultimate vote of confidence towards the end of December 2020. Martinez was adamant that Kieboom was going to be the starting third baseman. “I talked to him, and I told him, “Hey, you’re our future third baseman, and the future is now. So you’ve got to come to spring training, be ready to go, and the job is yours, but you’ve got to earn it,'” Martinez said. “He knows that. Moving forward, hopefully, he comes to spring training ready to go.”
Mike Rizzo even voiced his support for the third baseman in an interview on 106.7 The Fan. “He’s a guy that we have great faith in, we have high expectations for, and we felt that his game came a long way in 2019 and ‘20,” Rizzo said. “Learning a new position at the Major League level, we’ve got high hopes for him. We think he’s going to be a great player for us. If you look at the very small sample size early in his career, Anthony Rendon went through the same thing, several players go through the same thing early in their career. If you start judging people by 100-200 major league at bats, when they’re starting to play a new position in the league, you’d be in trouble, and we’re certainly not going to do that, we have all the confidence in the world in him, and we think he’s going to be a hell of a player.”
The Nationals leadership has been so confident in Kiebooms abilities that they didn’t think that third base was something that they needed to address during the offseason. Stephen Mears from TalkNats made an interesting observation: “The Nats made a sizable gamble to bet on Kieboom as their starting third baseman, and he subsequently fell well below the “Mendoza” line in these 2021 Spring Training games. This team could have made some upgrades in the offseason, but only made some mediocre moves on minor league deals for Jordy Mercer and Hernan Perez. The third base spot was there for Kieboom’s taking.”
While hindsight is 20/20, Rizzo made a mistake in his calculation, and that is okay. It’s time to cut bait and figure out where the team stands and what options the Nationals have with less than a week until Opening Day.
So there is only one suggestion that makes sense days away from Opening Day, and that is to sign a third baseman ASAP!
Todd Frazier has been with five teams during his time in the Majors, including splitting the 2020 season with the Texas Rangers and New York Mets. The 35-year-old is 6’2″, 215 lbs, and right-handed. He is currently a free agent and at this point, he might be willing to give a team a bit of a “last-minute discount” for a Major League contract. Let’s look at Frazier’s stats from his last full season. In 2019, while playing with the New York Mets, Frazier played in 133 games and had 499 plate appearances. He posted a .251 batting average, a .443 slugging percentage and a .772 OPS. During that season, Frazier slugged 19 doubles and 21 home runs, and knocked in 67 runs. In the field, Frazier only committed 12 errors and had a fielding percentage of .964. Signing Frazier to a low-cost, one-year contract will give the Nats a reliable bat and solid defense at third base. He can also play at first base, which could come in handy if things go haywire at first with Josh Bell or Ryan Zimmerman.
Lamb has played with only three teams during his seven-year career so far in the majors. He was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 38th round of the 2009 MLB draft and then again by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 6th round in 2012. In 2019, Lamb didn’t perform well. In 78 games and 226 plate appearances, he only hit .193 (36-for-187) with six home runs and 30 RBI. In the field, Lamb did perform well while playing both corner infield positions. He had a .985 fielding percentage and only committed two errors. The 30-year-old Lamb, who also has some postseason experience, has a .239/.329/.435 career slash line while averaging 22 home runs and 83 RBI per season.
Both Frazier and Lamb aren’t a long-term solution to a problem at third base, and let’s hope that the Nationals finally address the issue during this year’s free-agency after the season ends. [Enter Kris Byrant rumors here.]
No matter what happens, Carter Kieboom’s time in Washington DC seems to be ending.
Edited by: Jonathan Mailloux
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