The Nationals and Kevin Frandsen are close to a deal that would bring the veteran utility man back to Washington, a person familiar with the situation said Thursday afternoon. Frandsen, 32, is eligible for arbitration, and the deadline to tender contracts for arbitration-eligible players is Dec. 2.
The Nationals were pleased with Frandsen’s impact in the clubhouse and on the field last season. He hit .259/.299/.309 in 236 plate appearances and filled in all over the diamond because of injuries to starters. He played 21 games in left field, played 16 games at third base, 13 at second and nine games at first. Entering the season, Frandsen had five starts in the outfield but was willing to play left field when Bryce Harper was injured.
Frandsen “was an effective player for us,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said Wednesday at the GM Meetings. “He’s a real team-chemistry type of guy. He gives you a grind out at-bat. He puts the bat on the ball and gets you a lot of big hits and played a variety of roles defensively that really help us fill the void when a lot of our regular guys were injured. A guy that volunteered to go to left field when he hadn’t played it in many many years and played it well. He came off the bench and gave us good at-bats and a lot of big hits.”
The Nationals picked up Frandsen late in spring training after he opted out of his deal with the Phillies, who had outrighted him to Class AAA Lehigh Valley. He signed a one-year deal with the Nationals last year that guaranteed to pay him at least $900,000 and could be worth up $1.2 million with bonuses. He fell just short of qualifying for free agency this winter. After the season, the Nationals expressed an interest in bringing back Frandsen, who spoke highly of his time in Washington.
In a division-title winning season, the Nationals’ reserves carried a heavy load through various injuries to starters. Nationals pinch-hitters posted a collective .143 average and .476 OPS, both worst in the NL. Frandsen hit .234 (11 for 47 with one home run) in pinch-hitting situations, best among the team’s pinch hitters.
The Nationals aren’t expected to make major splashes this offseason and tweaking the bench and bullpen are the likeliest options. Bringing back Frandsen is part of the Nationals’ plan for the bench. The bench could include Frandsen, catcher Jose Lobaton, Nate McLouth, Steven Souza Jr. and perhaps Danny Espinosa. Nate Schierholtz and Scott Hairston have departed via free agency.