Carter Kieboom was an intriguing player heading into 2020 before the Nationals signed Howie Kendrick.
...and Asdrubal Cabrera.
...and Starlin Castro.
...and Eric Thames.
After this weekend, though, he's suddenly intriguing again.
“He deserves a shot to make the team,” Martinez said. “We need to fill a void at third base, and we think he's appropriate. He can do the job. I wasn't at Winterfest, but the guys there said he put on about 15-20 pounds of muscle, so I'm looking forward to watching him play there.
"What I want to do, and I'm going to talk to him in the next few days, is just let him play third base and not move him all over the place and let him get used to playing third base and get him over there and see what we got.”
The Nationals were quick to address their infield openings in the wake of Rendon's signing with the Angels, seemingly leaving Kieboom on the outside looking in on a role with the big club. But Castro, it appears, is set to be the team's everyday second baseman, and Thames and Kendrick seem destined for a platoon split at first base.
That leaves Cabrera as Kieboom's primary competition for the hot corner, and the 34-year-old did hit an impressive .323/.404/.565 in 38 games with the Nats after being released by the Rangers in early August. Cabrera re-signed for just $2.5 million this month, though, and can move all around the diamond as needed, possibly in a superutility role.
If Kieboom does win the job, he comes with tantalizing upside. The 22-year-old didn't impress in an 11-game cup of coffee with the Nats last season but hit .303/.409/.493 in 109 games at Triple-A and possesses both a strong hit tool and enough pop to be dangerous.
Kieboom has been virtually free in early fantasy drafts, going on average at pick 306 by NFBC ADP, by virtue of his seeming to not have a place on the big club heading into spring. With this news that ADP will surely rise, and a strong spring will keep moving that number lower.
Francona: Lindor Not On The Trade Block
Francisco Lindor's name has been floated in various trade rumors for months now, but his manager is doing his best to quiet those rumors.
"(Francisco) Lindor's not on the trade block," Indians manager Terry Francona told MLB Network Radio over the weekend. "I can guarantee you we're not trying to trade Lindor. We have him for two more years. Keeping him is everybody's goal."
The Lindor smoke is understandable, for a couple of reasons. Despite looking like a team that is set to contend for a championship, the Indians dealt former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber earlier this winter in what amounted to a glorified salary dump. The team received young, hard-throwing reliever Emmanuel Clase and outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. in the trade and signed Cesar Hernandez to play second base, but they've failed to make any impactful additions to a team that missed the postseason in 2019.
On top of that, the team has control of Lindor through next season, but the 26-year-old will be a free agent after the 2021 season. The cost to retain him will likely be prohibitive for an organization with an average attendance of 22,008 in 2019, 21st in the league.
While guaranteeing that the team isn't actively trying to trade their star shortstop, Francona in the same breath did acknowledge the reality of the situation.
"Also, we know that keeping him and fielding a competitive team is a challenge in our market," he said. "There's no getting around that. It's not going to be easy. I think that's as honest as you can be. Nobody, I guarantee you, nobody that cares about the Cleveland Indians wants to see Lindor go anywhere else."
In the end, we're likely not far from where we were before the interview -- the odds are good that Lindor is with the Indians when the season opens, barring the team being knocked off its feet by a trade offer. Wherever he plays in 2020, Lindor will once again be one of the premier talents in baseball.
Wieters In; Knizner Out?
We wouldn't normally write about something as seemingly insignificant as a backup catcher re-signing, but hey, slow news day.
Wieters re-upped with the Cardinals for one year and $2 million, according to MLB Network's Jon Heyman, to be Yadier Molina's backup in St. Louis for 2020. The 33-year-old performed passably in the role in 2019, hitting .214/.268/.435 with 11 homers in 67 games.
Bigger than the implications for Wieters or Molina is what the signing means for prospect Andrew Knizner, who had been slated to open the year as the Cardinals' backup catcher. Knizner, viewed by many as a top-5 prospect in the Cardinals' system, could be an attractive trade piece for the Rockies if the Cardinals were to pursue a deal.
Earlier this month the team acquired pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore from the Rays, another name that many quickly associated with a possible trade. The Cardinals' farm system also has a couple of top-100 bats in Dylan Carlson and Nolan Gorman.
Or perhaps this is just a signing in a vacuum that allows Knizner to play everyday at Triple-A. We'll know soon enough.
Quick Hits: According to Robert Murray, formerly of The Athletic, the Mets have reopened trade talks with the Pirates regarding Starling Marte. Murray cautions that while talks are ongoing, a deal does not appear close at this time. The two sides have been talking on and off for months now, as the Mets continue to explore possible upgrades in center field ... Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports that the Royals and Alex Gordon are "getting close" to completing a one-year contract. There's no word yet on the financial details, but Flanagan says the new deal could be announced on Tuesday or Wednesday after Gordon completes his physical. It took until a few weeks before the beginning of spring training, but Gordon returning to the only organization he's known always seemed inevitable. Slated to turn 36 next month, Gordon might wind up retiring after the 2020 campaign ... Carlos Martinez told reporters he is at 100% health and expects to be a member of the Cardinals' starting rotation this season. Martinez has not started a game since July of 2018. He has endured multiple stints on the injured list due to shoulder woes over the past two seasons. When he was healthy enough to pitch he was used out of the bullpen rather than the rotation. He pitched in 48 games last year and notched 24 saves to go along with a 3.17 ERA. If he does return to a starting role it would open the closer's job to either Alex Reyes or more likely Giovanny Gallegos. Regular closer Jordan Hicks is still recovering from Tommy John surgery and is not expected back until at least the All Star break ... Cubs prospect Nico Hoerner will get a chance to win the starting second base job during spring training. With Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell out of the picture the Cubs have a gaping hole at second base heading into the new season. Hoerner has been a shortstop throughout his minor league career but is blocked there by Javier Baez. Other internal candidates to play second base for the Cubs this year are David Bote, Daniel Descalso and Ian Happ. Hoerner was the Cubs' first-round pick in the 2018 draft. He made a 20-game cameo in the majors last year and turned in a .282 batting average with three homers and 17 RBI in 82 plate appearances. He profiles as a table-setter who will get on base at a high rate with a bit of pop and speed. He's played just 89 games in the minors since turning pro and missed extended time last summer with a broken bone in his wrist. He's still quite raw and may need additional development before taking over the keystone for the Cubs, although the chances are good that he will be in the majors to stay at some point this season ... Blue Jays signed INF Joe Panik to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. The 29-year-old had a down season offensively in 2019, slashing .244/.315/.336 with just five homers and 39 RBI in 142 games between the Giants and Mets. He'll attempt to make the Blue Jays' Opening Day roster as a reserve infielder ... Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that the Cubs have "considered/discussed" Jacoby Ellsbury. The Yankees released Ellsbury back in November following two full missed seasons due to myriad injuries. It's unclear at this point how healthy he is and how motivated he is to continue his career, so the Cubs still have some research to do before mulling a contract offer. However, with an apparent hole in center field and the leadoff spot and also self-imposed spending limits, Ellsbury is at least worth checking into.