Jan 18, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Age on Opening Day 2014: 40
How acquired: Minor-league free agent, signed Jan. 2014
2014 salary: Minor-league contract
2013 Stats: 73 G, 249 PA, 26 R, 48 H, 9 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 2 SB, 17 BB, 39 SO, .211 AVG, .267 OBP, .251 SLG, .518 OPS, 2 E, -0.5 UZR (at 2B), -1.5 UZR (at 3B), -0.9 WAR
2014 storyline: Nine years after playing a key role on the inaugural Nationals club, Carroll is back with the franchise that originally drafted him. His career peaked after he left D.C. — it included two nice seasons in Colorado, including a run to the 2007 World Series, and a couple of productive seasons in Los Angeles — but he struggled last year between Minnesota and Kansas City.
Carroll will be 40 before Opening Day, and he’ll have to prove he deserves a spot on the Nationals’ roster. He’s guaranteed nothing, and his fate may be tied to how Danny Espinosa performs in spring training. But the Nats are hoping he can provide veteran leadership, continue his career-long skill as a .339 pinch-hitter and prove valuable to this club.
Best-case scenario: After a strong showing in Viera, Carroll makes the Opening Day roster. He fills in at all three infield spots and becomes the everyday second baseman when Anthony Rendon spends time on the DL. Carroll winds up getting 400 plate appearances, hits .290 with a .360 OBP, plays solid defense and is one of the clubhouse leaders on a Nationals club that reaches the postseason.
Worst-case scenario: Carroll shows his age, struggles this spring and doesn’t make the club. He refuses an assignment to Class AAA Syracuse and becomes a free agent. Unable to find a big-league job anywhere else, he decides to hang up his spikes and retire after an admirable, 12-year career.
Most-likely scenario: It really is 50-50 whether he makes the roster, and his fate may rest more in Espinosa’s hands than his own, but let’s assume he does make the club. Carroll probably isn’t going to duplicate his peak offensive numbers from a few years ago, but he should be better than he was last season. He hits .250, provides some clutch hits off the bench, fills in when needed and is a strong influence for his younger teammates.
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