Nationals Baseball: Ian Desmond is frozen in place

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ian Desmond is frozen in place

Eh - below is a garbage post thrown out at the end of the day. Like an aspirin in your advent calendar they can't all be winners. Read it if you want but the jist is that the Nats have Matt Antonelli playing some SS in AAA. That's fine if he's going to replace Hairston or Bixler as a bench guy but I don't agree with it if they mean to replace Desmond. I think Desmond should get the whole season to work his issues out and if they do replace him I think it should be done differently (Espinosa to SS, someone else to 2nd).


I brought up Matt Antonelli a couple weeks ago in comments as a potential MI guy to bring up, if the Nats ever decided to get rid of the dead wood on the bench. At the very least a former first round draft pick who is still only 26 years old would be more interesting to watch hit than Alex "In 2012, Alex joined the Dodgers organization as a minor league instructor" Cora. I was reminded of him when FJB posted a link to this article. (Matt also blogs with the same stylistic choices of a young Farid)

Anyway it all got me thinking about how he was doing (damn good : .364 / .425 / .576 in 18 games) and that got me thinking of where they would put him. He's a 3B/2B guy and the guy to replace in the infield is the SS. What to do? What to do?

The smart play, if the Nats want to give up on Desmond (which I wouldn't until the All-Star break at the earliest but that's me), is to move Danny Espinosa to SS and let Matt take 2nd, while Ian takes a breather in AAA. Danny played SS exclusively until AAA and Matt has never played SS in 5 years of minor league ball. Danny IS a SS, better than Ian in the minors. Matt might be able to pass as a 2B. Danny becomes the new major league SS while Ian, who's gotten plenty of chances by now to stick, has to not only hit but learn to play 2nd if he wants to come back. Thems the breaks. Of course the Nats aren't doing that because that's not how things work in baseball. I obviously never played the game.

What the Nats are doing is keeping Danny at 2B. This is because, I assume, it would be terribly disruptive to move him to short in general. It would be even worse, specifically for what could be a short period of time, since they'd only move him back to 2nd if Antonelli failed and Desmond got hot after the switch. Best to leave well enough alone. So instead Matt Antonelli is learning, at 26 to play a position he probably hasn't seen time at since early college. If he can play SS than great, but if he can't then... I guess the Nats are stuck?

What this amounts to is the Nats bending over backward for Ian Desmond, the guy they are eyeing, at least on some level, for sending down to AAA. Rather than force HIM to learn 2nd and maximizing their talent available with Danny at SS and Matt/Ian at 2nd, they are forcing the world to fit Ian. Danny stays at a position when he might be better suited elsewhere. Matt is forced to move to a position where he's probably better suited elsewhere. Ian gets to stay where he is.

It's tempting to say the stability of playing 2nd every day helps Danny adjust to the major league, but why not try first and see if that's actually the case? Why assume this for the sake of helping out a player you are rapidly losing faith in? It makes no sense and to me it's the type of move that a top notch organization doesn't make.

Sorry - I wasn't clear but if given my druthers Ian would basically have the whole year. Maybe around Sept call-ups you shake things up if he doesn't improve enough to keep or trade. And I guess they could be prepping Antonelli to be a super sub, replacing a Hairston or Bixler. That makes more sense actually. Well besides the fact that chances are someone isn't going to play all those positions well and it's better to have guys on the bench that can. Of course I say that because none of the guys the Nats have can hit so defense is a big part of their value then.


Wally said...

I dunno about any of it, really. Giving up on Desi, betting on Antonelli or moving Espy regardless of the SS answer. The big knock on Desi coming in to the year was defense, but after a bad start, he hasn't made an error in ... IDK, seems like a long time. I don't cringe any more when the ball is hit to him. And although of limited value due to SSS, he now has a positive UZR for the year. Then there are the steals, which have increased value these days. His hitting has been bad, true, but it was bad last year until after the break, and then turned out ok. He looks awfully stiff up there, though. If they give up on him, I would trade him, not demote him. I think that he has value due to contract status, age, poor market for SS, and the fixability quotient.

Not sure that we should be banking on Antonelli being a starter. He never hit at AAA before this year, which makes the SSS warning even stronger. I was intrigued when they signed him and am happy about his play, for sure, but a Zobrist-lite role for him would be ideal, to me. But I would first let him prove this over 150 ABs, minimum.

But the biggest thing is, I am not sure that I would move Espy off 2B regardless. The dude is a force out there. When LaRoche was still playing, they had a real 'go on, hit it to the right side of the infield' swagger going. Would he maintain that at SS, or just be a guy? If he became just a guy, even if he overall value proposition of the swap was positive, I don't think that I would do it. This year, Espy has been the best fielding 2B I have ever seen. I acknowledge that it isn't a reasonable conclusion, but something appeals to me about that.

Todd Boss said...

My guess is that Desmond/Espinosa stay in their current positions for the season because any positional move should be done in the spring. Espinosa is valuable as a 108 ops+ hitting 2nd baseman but would be even more valuable doing that from short. We have several 2nd baseman prospects (led by Lombardozzi and Kobernus, Hague now on the mend and Rendon could play there eventually) and SS is a more important position to fill.

Flip Desmond to a team that likes his arm and defense.

Wally said...

By the way, to clarify my point on the previous thread about trades, my category #4 would mainly be quality bullpen guys. Even though they are good to have, they are fickle, shrewd management can keep the coffers refreshed and they have excess value at trade deadline time due to the target market being contenders with a higher marginal win value. I wouldn't put Espy or Ramos there. They would go into #5, along with Zimm, JZimm, Stras, etc. It would be 'ok, I'll listen because I should listen on everyone theoretically', but you need to completely overwhelm me'

Harper said...

Wally - I get it but you could probably find several SSs who could move to 2nd and make Espinosa look like.. well he'd still be good but you'd see better. While I think Espinosa would be good at short even if he were boring the I have to think the MI offense/defense combo the team could make with Espy at SS would be better than the one with him at 2nd.

Todd - I agree. This whole column is more based on what I think the Nats are setting themselves up to do then what they should do. It looks like they are setting up an Antonelli position switch to potentially replace Desmond and I don't think that's smart. I've said several times just give Desmond the year, but if you twisted my arm and demanded a move had to be made I could suck it up and do it post-All Star some time. So I wouldn't want to do it and if I was forced to do it this wouldn't be how I would do it.

Harper said...

Wally - I'd split 5 and 6 into "Wow me" (Espy Ramos ZNN) and "Fill a dump truck with every good prospect you have and dump them on my lawn" (Zimm, Stras still, Bryce)

Wally said...

Harper - ok, I missed that point the first time through.

Re: trade categories, you're right that split is more accurate.

Anonymous said...

Move Rendon to 2B, Espinosa to SS(his natural position). Either use Desmond as utility, or trade him.


Harper said...

You think Rendon is going to be ready that fast? I guess it is possible, Zimm was able to move up same year.

kick me in the GO NATS said...

Espinioza hits ok. It is just all power. Nothing wrong with a great defensive secondbasemen who hits 25 home runs no matter what else he does with the bat.

Harper said...

It's a bit frustrating that if he were to just hit .240-.250 he would be very valuable, but would we feel it was fair to ask a .280 hitter to "just hit .300"?