The 2018 MLB playoffs rage on as the Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers all have a shot to go to the World Series. But for the other 26 teams, it is time to start looking forward to the star-studded cast that makes up the 2018 free agents. Now is the time for teams to decide if they want to rebuild, retool or continue on their path.
For the Washington Nationals, it is time to find a new second baseman. They traded free agent to be Daniel Murphy to the Cubs because the front office decided to waive the white flag on the season. Wilmer Difo was given a chance to prove himself as the every day second baseman but he fits more as a utility player. While Washington needs to decide what they are going to do with Bryce Harper, they should sign DJ LeMahieu. Here’s why.
Why it makes sense
DJ LeMahieu is a career .298 hitter with two gold gloves. He can fill the void left by Daniel Murphy and is only 30. He won’t turn 31 untill July. LeMahieu had a down year due to injuries and only hit .276, but hit a career-high 15 home runs. A full season should see LeMahieu return to hitting over .300. He was able to do this for three straight years, from 2015-2017. During that time he won the batting title as he hit .348 in 2016. While LeMahieu will not be able to replace the power Murphy provided, he will be an upgrade in the field.
For second basemen in 2018, LeMahieu was second in the league for defensive runs saved, tied for first in fielding percentage, fifth in double plays turned and second in defensive wins above replacement. He is a two-time Gold Glove winner who would be an immediate improvement over Murphy who was a liability at second.
LeMahieu’s bat will help spark the offense as he is consistent at getting on base. In the field, he will provide an almost automatic out. Overall he is the best available option, but would be an expensive choice.
If Washington decides against going after LeMahieu they could decide to give Difo another shot. Difo is an above average defender but is inconsistent at the plate. He hit .230 this year as he was consistently swinging for the fences. This led to Difo setting a career high in strikeouts with 82. Fortunately for Washington, Difo is only 26 and he could bounce back to his 2017 self. In 2017 Difo was able to start for an extended period of time due to injuries. He hit a career-high .271 and had a 1.9 WAR. Washington should sign another second baseman and allow for Difo to prove himself in Spring Training.
Jed Lowrie had a career year for Oakland as he made his first All-Star Game at the age of 34. Lowrie set career highs in RBIs with 99, WAR with 4.8 and home runs with 23. He is not the best fielder but brings a veteran presence and discipline. Lowrie is on the wrong side of 30 so a multi-year deal is ill advised despite the year he just produced.
Brian Dozier started to emerge in 2016 where he hit .268 with 42 home runs. He was able to improve in 2017 where he hit 34 home runs and hit for a career-high .271. He also won his first gold glove and was a big reason the Twins made the playoffs that year. This year Dozier was a disappointment as he hit a career-low .215 between his time on the Twins and Dodgers. A change of scenery might be what Dozier needs to return to his 2016/2017 form.
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