Wednesday, October 09, 2013
Offseason Position Discussion : Second Base
Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Anthony Rendon performed adequately at second base (.265 / .329 / .396) after taking the reins. While that's not a great line it would put him squarely in the middle for 2nd base production. He's also a decent to good fielder, whose current issues lie with errors, something potentially correctable. He was a top prospect putting up a .319 / .461 / .603 line in AA this year. Everything seems to suggest that he has upside to grow into a star at the position.
There aren't really any good alternatives. The former second baseman Danny Espinosa, along with the Nationals organization, is having a problem perceiving reality. While common sense tells even the dullest of dullards that a player who put up remarkably consistent numbers for almost 4 years, through minors and majors, who suddenly became a different hitter right after he got injured is probably suffering from injury related issues, the Nats and/or Danny refuse to admit it. Instead he gets his swing tinkered with and continues to not hit in AAA. What a surprise. Great. I mean we should all be REALLY REALLY mad at this. Even if you didn't like Danny because you take offense to be 99% of a player's value, and take batting average and strikeouts to be 99% of offensive value*, he was still a commodity. He was something somebody would have given the Nats something for. The Nats basically burnt a $20 bill in front of your eyes.
Steve Lombardozzi has his moments. But moments are like fish in the sea. There is a lot more water out there and the water says no patience, no power, not all that fast, average at best in the field. That's not a starter. But he can do other things. He plays adequately at SS and 3B, hits for .265 or so, and rarely strikes out. He's not all that slow so he can pinch run and he can bunt. Not quite a "jack of all trades", maybe an "8 of clubs of all trades", a smart manager can use a player like Lombo.
Problems with Presumed Plan : A potential issue is that Rendon didn't really perform adequately. He performed great (.330 in June) then terrible (.187 in July) then ok (~.280 from then on out). So if the real Rendon is closer to July than anything else, the Nats will have a problem. He didn't hit all that well in AAA remember.
The real problem though is that Rendon isn't Danny in the field. He can't run like Danny which is a small minus and he can't field like Danny which is a bigger one. Danny helped out the defense as a whole, especially, it seems, the aging LaRoche. Of course you can't bring Danny back if he's not hitting so it's something you just have to swallow.
Another issue is that Rendon is a known injury risk. Bad ankles cost him time in college then most of his first year in the pros. Lombardozzi isn't a full-time player so do the Nats need someone better as a back-up?
My take : Rendon is an easy call. His prospect status and his performance, especially the good enough last couple months, earned him a long leash for 2014. Maybe he can't be put in pen as the starter all year, but he'd have to slump all the way to the All-Star break to make me suggest a change. I don't think July Rendon is the real one (any more than I think June Rendon is) that's just something you have to accept when starting someone with little major league experience. The fielding issue? If he's good enough and LaRoche isn't the problem really isn't with Rendon, now is it?As for the injury risk, he's young enough I'm willing to take that chance.
I really do like Lombo as the last guy on the bench. He can make contact and you need that kind of bat sometimes just like you need one that can put it over the fence. Granted you need the latter far more than the former, and you hope the former can be done by someone that can do the latter but you still need the former.
Cano? It's an interesting idea in theory but I'm not sure how to make it work in practice. He's not going to get 10 years or 30 million per. We all saw what happened since Pujols, at about the same age, got a 10 year 24 million dollar deal. No one is doing that for Cano. But the Yanks need him back and if the Dodgers don't win it all they might be clamoring for that one more player to put them over the top. He'll get a lot. 8 years 200 mill? Do you want the Nats to do that?
It's a dilemma. They need an offensive bump and because they don't have obvious holes they need a really good player to do that. But really good players cost money. Right now I'm saying this is a non-starter. With ZNN, Desmond need contract extensions soon (not to mention Clippard). Ramos and Strasburg right after that at a point where they will still have almost 50 mill committed to Werth, Zimm, and Gio (probably), I just don't think the money is there to do something like this.Or more accurately, the money is there, I just don't trust the Lerners to spend it. Sign Cano and sign all these guys is Plan A1. Plan A2 is just sign all these guys.
Outside the Box Suggestion :
Move Rendon to 3rd, put Zimmerman at second. Hey! I said "outside the box". Zimm's issues are routine plays where he has to think about it. Shorter time frame to throw it means less time to think about it. Problem solved! As Zimm's offensive skills diminish it won't be as problematic since his comparitives are 2nd baseman rather than slugging 3rd basemen. If he keeps hitting maybe he goes to 1st next year. Meanwhile Rendon gets to be as comfortable as possible in a position with a lot less running (save those ankles), as he tries to become a star hitter in the majors.
*99% chance you have brain damage.