The Nationals have designated infielder Wilmer Difo for assignment and called infielder Carter Kieboom back up from their alternate training site, the team announced. The move reinstalls Kieboom as the Nats’ everyday third baseman, manager Davey Martinez told MASNsports.com’s Mark Zuckerman and other reporters today.
Kieboom was optioned to the alternate site 10 days ago, making his stay in Fredericksburg a minimal one. The demotion raised some eyebrows at the time, though Kieboom had only hit .200/.359/.200 through his first 64 plate appearances for Washington this season. While the club may have been opting to use more experienced players than Kieboom in an attempt to turn the season around, the Nationals’ 2-10 record over their last 12 games has sunk them to last place in the NL East, and they now seem to be looking ahead to 2021.
Despite his lack of production (.535 OPS) over 107 PA at the big league level, the 23-year-old Kieboom is clearly still seen as a big part of the Nationals’ future. The 28th overall pick of the 2016 draft has posted a .287/.378/.469 slash line and 45 homers over 1462 minor league PA and has little left to prove on the farm, which is why D.C. was hoping Kieboom could slide right into an everyday role this season and at least somewhat fill the void left behind by free agent departure Anthony Rendon.
Since it seems like Kieboom will spend the rest of the season on Washington’s MLB roster, the youngster is still on pace to gain a full year of (prorated) service time, as Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post notes. Kieboom’s demotion won’t, therefore, give the Nats an extra year of control over Kieboom’s services.
Now in his 11th season in the Nationals organization, Difo has a .247/.309/.348 career slash line over 1060 Major League PA, coming off the bench to play second base, shortstop, third base, and a handful of games in the outfield. After seeing semi-regular action in both 2017 and 2018, Difo spent much of last season in the minors, and he didn’t appear on the Nats’ postseason roster. Washington agreed to a $1MM salary for Difo in 2020, which was his first year of arbitration eligibility.