Take : Right at the moment we were discussing it Danny Espinosa looked to be the starter with who the hell knows as the back-up, maybe Frandsen. But it didn't feel like the Nats were committed to this, nor should they be based on how Espinosa had hit in 2014, and how mediocre overall Frandsen was. Maybe Difo would play a role, maybe not.
2015 Reality : The take coming in was shown to be completely spot on. The Nats didn't trust Danny as a full-time starter, trading for Yunel Escobar. However, the never ending injury to Anthony Rendon forced a move by Escobar to the less demanding third base and Danny into an everyday role at second. He actually did suprisingly well, certainly to start the year.
Like I talked about in discussing next season, Danny was really good for the first half of the year, but couldn't sustain it and was, well, really bad in the second half - at least at the plate. You might blame the fact that Rendon came back and pushed him out of his role, but in reality he had over a month of bad starts before Rendon was back for good. For a guy in Danny's position (re: deemed not starter worthy in offseason) hitting .198 / .245 / .297 for over a month, will, and should, lose you your spot. So, as often as certain people said "Danny deserves to play! He's been so good!" they were basing that off the memories of Spring, not the realities of Summer.
When Rendon came back initially in early June (from the knee issues) he was ok but then he went out again with a strained quad. When he came back from that in late July, he struggled terribly. He hit .200 / .274 / .271 for almost a month. Then he turned it on again for an equal amount of time (.364 / .442 / .525) before limping to the finish line over the last 2 weeks plus (.151 / .242 / .226).
In totality 2B ended up being a slight negative for the Nats. Danny gave the Nats 60 games of solid play, and Rendon another 40 good to great, but the remaining 60 or so combined were god awful at the plate. Defensively, Danny was good but a hampered Rendon was not and he played like 35% of the innings there (Danny played like 45%) so the Nats couldn't make up the offensive issues with great D.
Hmmm that doesn't seem right. It still seems like the Nats should be around average at secon... Oh I nearly forgot! Coming into the year the didn't like Frandsen and they did let him go. Difo didn't play a role. Instead Mike Rizzo made arguably his biggest mistake* and brought in Dan Uggla for a last man on the bench role that grew to a starting role for a week, and a spot starting role through mid May. All in all he'd end up playing about 15% of the time at 2nd base. Dan Uggla is a garbage fielder and couldn't hit. That dragged the position down like an anchor.
I noted I wanted Zobrist. I was not alone in this want and frankly we were all right again. He would have been perfect. Que era, era.
Out of the box : Move Rendon back was the idea and get a third baseman. In practice this ended up happening but the theory would have had them grabbing a real 3B in the offseason. Would it have worked? Depends on the 3B they got. I wasn't picky, but to summarize quickly based on last year's performance -
Trade for Beltre : Couldn't happen, Texas wasn't selling. Would have been good though
Sign Sandoval : Could have happened, FA. Would have been huge mistake and an albatross contract
Trade for Donaldson : Could have happened, A's did sell. Would have been awesome, perhaps season changing.
Sign Headley super cheap: Couldn't have happened, Yanks paid him. Would have maybe made things a tiny bit better, mostly by dominoing Uggla out of the picture.
Sign Ramirez cheap : Couldn't have happened, Brewers and him picked up mutual option. Would have changed nothing.
So the Nats could have either saved the season or plunged it into even worse chaos. Good to know.
*did other things not work out and have more impact? Sure. But come on Uggla was and is terrible and was only picked up to rub it in the Braves face while helping a friend out. You know why players should be on rosters? Because they can play? You know why players shouldn't be on rosters? To rub it in other team's faces or to help out friends