Bogar affirms that Nats value versatility

The writing has been on the wall all offseason. Baseball has changed over recent years, and the Nationals have committed to adapting to it.

Versatility is the name of the game.

Gone are the days managers would trot out the same eight defenders in their same designated positions along with a starting pitcher expected to go seven or eight innings every day over the course of a 162-game season.

Now it’s all about getting more bang for your buck. Can a player fill multiple roles? Can he play all over the infield, or both the infield and the outfield? Can a fringe starting pitcher also be a swing man out of the bullpen?

Find a way to keep your best players fresh and on the field as much as possible based on what the matchups dictate.

The Nationals have shown they value versatility in the way they’ve constructed their roster this offseason and over the first 18 months of this rebuild.

Jeimer Candelario, the Nats’ first free agent signing this offseason, can play third base and first base while also occasionally filling in as the designated hitter. Dominic Smith, while mainly a first baseman, has extended experience in left field. And Corey Dickerson, who is expected to be the starting left fielder this year, has played some right field in each of the past four seasons and had some experience playing center field earlier in his career.

Even Trevor Williams, who has been told he will be a part of the starting rotation in Washington, has made 41 career relief appearances, mainly while filling the role of a swing man the last two years with the Mets.

This allows other players to fill roles where they are better suited. Joey Meneses doesn’t have to be the starting first baseman or backup outfielder anymore; he can mostly be the DH. Ildemaro Vargas doesn’t have to focus on becoming the starter at any one position; he can continue providing value as a backup to any infield position and the corner outfield spots. Heck, the Nationals maybe can stop trying to give Riley Adams reps at first base, just in case, and have him focus solely on being the backup catcher.

Bench coach Tim Bogar says all of this versatility really helps skipper Davey Martinez and the coaching staff manage the different players on the team.

“I think it’s really good for the team,” Bogar said last week on “The Hot Stove Show” on MASN. “It gives Davey a lot of opportunities to move players around, give them days off, maybe set up matchups against pitchers a little bit better. … Meneses can play first base, outfield. Vargas can play all over the infield now. We got guys that can move all over.”

Sure, guys like catcher Keibert Ruiz, second baseman Luis García and shortstop CJ Abrams are not going to move around a whole lot. But the versatile guys can be put in different positions on any given day as the coaches evaluate some of them as potential long-term pieces.

A 107-loss season isn’t fun for anyone. And it’s not easy coming into another season with low expectations. But the ability to get out of the norm and mix and match lineups makes it fun for both the coaches and the players as they continue the grind through this rebuild.

“It just makes managing a lot easier, I think, for Davey,” said Bogar. “I think it gives him the opportunity to put the best lineup out there every day. And I think it keeps it fresh for the players, too. I think a lot of people don’t realize that when a player is a utility guy, moving around, you know, everybody talks about consistency, playing in one spot, but when you’re a guy that plays four or five different positions, being able to play those once a week all over the place, it keeps you sharp.”

And the versatility doesn’t stop at the major league roster. The Nationals have added depth through minor league signings with invitations to major league spring training to bring some competition to camp and as backup plans in case of injuries.

Jeter Downs, a waiver claim from the Red Sox, is a former top prospect that can play both shortstop and second base. Erick Mejia is a 28-year-old who has big league experience at second, third, short and the outfield. Franklin Barreto is 26 and can play all over the infield. And Michael Chavis is a former first-round pick and top prospect who can play the corners in the infield and outfield.

“We’re excited to have guys that can move around,” Bogar said. “It’s going to make our lives a little bit easier.”

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