Does Meneses fit into Nationals' first base plans?

Joey Meneses blue home

As the final shopping week before Christmas arrives, we’re left wondering if the Nationals intend to make any more purchases in the coming days, or if they’re content to wait until after the holidays.

To date, they’ve addressed their short-term need at third base (Nick Senzel) and their need for bullpen depth (Dylan Floro). That still leaves first base, left field and the back of the rotation to be addressed.

Like third base, the Nats figure to treat left field and the back of the rotation as short-term fixes as well, knowing they’ve got top prospects knocking on the door at all three of those positions (Brady House, James Wood, a healthy Cade Cavalli). But the situation at first base isn’t as clear-cut.

The Nationals don’t have an obvious long-term first baseman in their farm system. Of course, first basemen often come from some other position, so it’s not necessarily a problem they don’t already have somebody in the minors targeted for that spot.

But where does that leave them right now? If they wanted to make a multi-year commitment, they certainly could. The problem: The notable free agents who fit that bill (Cody Bellinger, Rhys Hoskins) aren’t cheap. The Nats have been in touch with Hoskins, according to a source familiar with the discussions, but aren’t likely to get into a bidding war for the 30-year-old former Phillie, who missed all of this season with a torn ACL.

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Nats will again be in the market for a first baseman

Dominic Smith blue jersey

We knew there would be news Tuesday, what with the Nationals facing a late-afternoon deadline to add players to the 40-man roster and protect them from being lost in the Rule 5 draft. We didn’t know there would be quite this much news, though.

While the promotions of pitchers DJ Herz, Mitchell Parker, Cole Henry and Zach Brzykcy to the 40-man roster were newsworthy, the bigger story wound up being one of the corresponding moves made to clear spots for those prospects: Dominic Smith was designated for assignment.

This isn’t to suggest Smith was always a lock to return in 2024 after a very disappointing 2023 at the plate. But here’s what Mike Rizzo had to say when asked during the season’s final week about the roles both Smith and Jeimer Candelario played after they were signed the previous winter:

“Dom’s shown that his leadership in the infield, I think he’s made our young infielders much, much better and much more confident defensively,” Rizzo said. “And he’s starting to show some power late in the season. Those are always the type of people that you want to acquire, and guys that when you’re at this point in the rebuild, I thought was important for us to acquire.”

Smith was never supposed to be part of the long-term plan around here. But with no obvious replacement at first base waiting in the wings and based on the way both Rizzo and manager Davey Martinez talked about him at season’s end, it felt like he would be back for another year.

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