Presumed Plan : It's not 100% clear but the likelihood right now is the Danny Espinosa will play second.
Reasoning on Presumed Plan : To break it down, the Nats have three guys for three positions. Yunel is sneaky bad in the field, with quickly disappearing range. He played SS before last year, but covered 3B this year when Rendon went down. Rendon is a natural 3B and prefers to play there, but can play 2B and has for most of his young career. Espinosa went through the minors as a SS, but has played 2B for most of his career, and as the best fielder of the three, is good enough to play 3B.
You could stick Yunel at 3B again, but they'd really prefer to get Rendon back there since that is where they expect him to play into the future. Give his range issues you'd think that SS would be the worst place for Yunel but with Danny over at 2B and Rendon at 3B Yunel would have some help on either side of him. Plus, Yunel played SS for a long time so he wouldn't have to learn anything new, something that he would have to do at 2B. So SS may actually the the best option.
Another reason to stick Yunel at SS is that he is only going to be here for a season more (he's a FA after next year) and there is a SS waiting in the wings in Trea Turner. Turner could conceivably force his way into the line-up in Spring, but more likely they will put him in AAA to get everyday at bats and let his performance there dictate when he gets called up. By putting Yuney at short you set up 2017's infield.
So Yunel plays shortstop, which means Danny plays second. Probably.
With the bat, Danny had a minor renaissance last year, getting back to his low average, fair patience, decent pop days from 2010-2012. That combination, along with his good defense, makes him a fringy starter and a good deal given he's still in arbitration. If he puts up a year like 2015 he's going to help the Nats more than he would hurt them. Plus Danny has been a healthy player, reliable to play a full season which is something the Nats need. "Securely ok" has more value for a team with a lot of "hopefully very good" on it.
Problems with Presumed Plan : In the field, you put your best fielder at SS. That's the position that gets the most work. So putting Danny at 2B is wasting him. And if Zimmerman's foot is better you'd probably have the same good defense on either side of Yunel as you'd have with him at SS, at a less critical position. Putting Yunel at SS might be overthinking it. You'd normally stick him at 3B or failing that 2B so maybe you should just do that?
As for Danny playing everyday, last season was really a tale of two halves. For the first half of the year Danny was resurgent. He was hitting as well as .272 / .356 / .471 on June 19th. That's Top 5 2B material. But he did nothing the rest of the year putting up a .205 / .259 / .341 line that's like worst 2B material and similar to what he did in 2013-2014. If he's that Danny, then he's a net negative for this team regardless of how he fields.
Also, while Trea Turner struggled initially he hit ok down the stretch and he fielded well. He hit .314 / .353 / .431 in 48 games in Syracuse last year. Is there really a point to putting him back in the minors? Do we really think Espinosa/Escobar is that much better?
My take : This is a tough situation and will roll into our SS discussion. If you are committed to playing Danny and Yunel to start the year there is a question : are the Nats better off with Danny at SS and Yuney at 2B or vice versa? The arguments can be made either way. Frankly I don't think it'll matter too much so stick Yunel where he feels comfortable so maybe you can get another good offensive year out of him, because if you don't he has no value. Plus I don't know what'll happen to Ryan and Clint will certainly not have good range at 1B so Danny can help with that too. That way you aren't gambling with a million singles through the 1B hole.
So Danny at 2B is the starting point for me. Then the concerns about the offense kick in. Is Danny capable of a full season of good hitting now several years removed from his injury? Is he really 2010-2012 Danny? Or is he 2013-2014 Danny? The difference is between a hidden gem, a nice player to have around, and an lineup anchor. Given that the totality of 2015 was "2010-2012 Danny" you do start there as well, but with far less certainty in that than that he'll be a good fielding 2B. The Nats have to have a plan in place in case Danny starts out the year struggling to hit .200 and striking out every 3rd at bat.
What is that plan B? Probably Trea Turner. I don't think they'll have him start the year in the majors and I think he'll hit in AAA enough that he'd be ready for a call-up any time. (We'll talk about it more in a few days but I think the Nats best bet is to sell high on Yuney and let Turner start, but that has no bearing on 2B as it is expected to play out). That does leave a question of who will be the bench 2B. Difo was unimpressive and then got injured, it won't be him. The Nats don't really have any one to bring up. Dan Uggla is a non-starter and Mike Rizzo should be run out of town on a rail if Uggla is back. I don't know, it feels pretty fait accompli to me that Stephen Drew will be on this team as a back up, Rizzo draft pick from the Diamondbacks and all. He has legit power and can still field so the Nats could do worse.
Oh, what would I do? I'd sign Zobrist. Just like I would have traded for him before 2014 and before 2015. He admittedly had an off-year defensively and a slow start but he still ended up hitting like he has his entire career and his positional flexibility makes him a perfect fit for a team that's likely to go into 2016 with a injury risk late 30s LF and a CF that couldn't hit in 2015. But at this point saying "get Zobrist" is like screaming into an abyss. No one is hearing that.
Outside the Box Suggestion : I'd say gambling on a year of Howie Kendrick wouldn't be an interesting take but chances are at 32 he'll get a decent multi-year contract from someone. It might be just 2 years but it'll be something. And Daniel Murphy is going to get something more than that. As much as it would be fun to screw with the Mets like that, he really is only a good player who's having a great series.
So FA is pretty much out, those 2 and Zobrist are easily the best, so now we're talking trade. An obvious trade target would be Ian Kinsler, who would labor for one-year a Tigers team that probably won't compete in 2016 but would be looking for a fast re-tool to make something out Miggy's contract before he either starts to decline or can't get on the field anymore. While the Nats should be an ideal trade partner - they should be trying to win in 2016 before the rest of the exodus happens and the Nats potentially revert to a .500 type team - trading away actual good talent has never been Rizzo's way so I can't see them making a deal with the Tigers, who'd probably want Turner or Ross.
So how about we stick Rendon at 2B and trade for a 3B? That makes the most sense to me. Rendon can play 2B, has played 2B, and if he hits he's an All-Star at the position. At 3B he's very good but far less impactful given the number of 3B that can hit. Tell Rendon he's a 2B from now on so get used to it and trade for a 3B instead. Todd Frazier is an interesting name - like Kinsler he'll be a FA after next year and plays for a team that will be out of the playoffs. Unlike Frazier though his team is in more of a long-term rebuild so might match up with the Nats. But that's not out of the box.
Trade for Evan Longoria. His contract is long and high but actually reasonable for a guy that hits ok and fields ok. He's played every game for 3 straight years, giving the Nats needed security and just might have a few years like his better ones left in him. Perhaps being on a team that's not looking at a big uphill climb every year and plays infront of some fans would rejuvenate him. The Nats may have to give up a lot in the deal but he would immediately make the Nats line-up better and provide a 3rd core bat going forward for the next wave of competitive Nats teams. That's something we can't rely on from Zimmerman, Werth, Espinosa, or Taylor - starters likely to be here in 2017. Even Turner is a rookie who may or may not catch on right away. The Nats need another reliable bat heading beyond 2016. Hell they need another reliable bat IN 2016. This would work.