Throughout the winter, the Nationals maintained contact with free agent utility man Jeff Baker. He could play all four corner spots, and he provided right-handed power off the bench. He fit what the Nationals were looking for.
The Nationals could not exceed the offer Baker received from the Marlins, who gave him a two-year, $3.7 million deal and the likelihood of more playing time. When the Nationals missed out on Baker, they were prepared to enter the season with either Tyler Moore, who provided the right-handed power, or Jamey Carroll, who gave similar versatility.
And then two days before the Nationals headed north for the season, General Manager Mike Rizzo saw another player who reminded him of Baker. The Phillies prompted Kevin Frandsen to opt out of his contract when they sent him to the minors. The Nationals swooped in with a one-year, $900,000 deal that could escalate to $1.3 million.
“He really filled a role that I was looking for in that Jeff Baker type of role,” Rizzo said. “He can play third and first. This guy can play second and short and corner outfield. From afar, I really like the way he went about his business.”
Rizzo also believed Frandsen was an upgrade because of his history. The Nationals focused this winter on bringing in veterans for their bench with a specific mindset. Frandsen was an ideal fit there, too, in Rizzo’s mind.
“He was a tough out for us all the time,” Rizzo said. “I watched him over his career in San Francisco and Philadelphia and really liked the tools of the player and the skill of the player. I’ve always been a big fan of his makeup and character. He’s always been a tough guy that grinds out at-bats. You look at him, and he’s always got a dirty uniform. He plays the game the way I like it to be played.”