Last Year's Discussion
What? No link? Well, I didn't do one! Went 2nd to 3rd to OF. Huh.
From reading 2B and 3B the idea was Yunel Escobar would play SS because it got Rendon back where he should be and it would be easier to transition Turner to SS that way. Also with Danny at 2nd and Rendon at 3rd, Yuney's defensive issues would be hidden. It wasn't a good plan and I'd rather they sign Zobrist (Espy to SS) or trade for Frazier (Rendon to 2B, Espy to SS) and sell high on Yuney.
As we talked about the did sell Yuney, whether it was high or not is a question (Hey. It's Trover Gitts!) and ended up signing Murphy which worked out pretty well in my opinion. Going out on a limb there.
What happened with SS? It fell to Danny with Trea Turner set up to come in if needed later in the year. Danny was terrible to start ( a .199 / .300 / .281 line after May 25th) which prompted the fans to begin to push for Trea Turner early. But the Nats stuck to their guns and Danny would be literally one of the best hitters in baseball in June and would go .303 / .394 / .713 over like 6 weeks. That's like an MVP performance. By then CF had emerged as a gaping hole and so Turner was brought up to fix that, not SS. While performing great there, Espy crashed back down to Earth going .169 / .266 / .270 over the remaining 74 games, but there was little the Nats could do at that point.
Trea Turner is your starting SS. Danny Espinosa is back-up for 2B-SS-3B on the bench.
Reasoning on Presumed Plan
Rizzo doesn't like to be put into situations where he is forced to do something. That's exactly where he will be after this year if the Nats don't make a change. Danny goes to FA. Either Trea shifts to SS, to which Rizzo has to get a CF, or Trea stays in CF, so Rizzo has to get a SS. Unless you love Difo or MAT these are facts. To be pro-active you look at getting someone now, and CF/OF makes more sense. It's generally an easier position to fill and it gets Turner back in the infield where most think he belongs. Turner at SS is the future for the Nats and there isn't a good reason not to start that future now if you can.
As for Turner at SS itself, Turner did everything you wanted him to last year. He crushed it at the plate over almost half a season (.342 / .370 / .567) and in his fleeting moments in the infield looked perfectly acceptable. If he can play SS, and it's generally thought he can, then you play him there. This is the same reasoning as with Murphy. A SS that hits like Turner can be a big advantage.
Sitting Espinosa is not going to hurt the offense. He can hit at times, but he's a boom and bust type, with more bust than boom. His pop might be missed a little but his inability to make contact won't be.
Problems with Presumed Plan
Turner's fielding prowess at SS is a great unknown. Like I said the general thought was that he can do it just fine, but talk of moving him to 2B isn't too far in the past. We know Espinosa is a plus fielder so that does matter. It especially is important given that Murphy is a minus fielder at 2B. Not a big one, but still a minus. Danny helps cover for that. If Trea is merely ok, or even good, that still means more hits up the middle. And that's not going into the internal knowledge Danny might have manning the IF for this team for 4+ years. How do you work with Rendon, throw to Zimm, set up for various pitchers. The little things add-up.
Add to that while Turner did hit in his almost half a season, that's still only almost half a season. He likely won't match those numbers next year. The smaller the offensive gap is between Espinosa and Turner, the more the defensive one might tip the scales.
Getting someone this year just shifts that issue from next season to this season. You still have to do it.
I do think there will be a defensive gap. I think Danny's D is often underrated and overlooked by fans. But still Danny is Danny. He's going to hit like he did last year. Maybe a smidge better, like a .225 average instead of .209, but his K's are going to keep him from ever really breaking through to that over .250 area where everything else he does (meh patience, decent speed, fair bunter, good pop) can make him into an overall offensive plus.
Meanwhile I think Trea Turner will suffer a bit of a sophomore slump. You generally don't move into the majors and immediately hit for higher average and more power than you ever did it the minors. I'd guess that the pitchers figure him out somewhat and the average and pop both take noticeable hits. But still look at that line up there. .300 with say 15 homers and 35 2B/3B would be noticeable hits. Sure, he didn't hit 2016 MLB well in the minors, but he hit in the minors. There's no fluke in the fact he can hit in the majors. It's just a matter of if he will be good, very good or All-Star level. As for his defense, I don't know. I have to go with what the team thinks and if they think he's fine, I assume he's fine. And if he's fine it's a drop.
Overall though that difference - between say .300 / .335 / .480 and .225 / .310 / .400 that's too much to overcome with some nice glove work. Trea's a better choice to start at SS at a baseline and because of his potential could be an much much better choice to start. The only argument is if you think he's better off in CF next year but I don't see that unless you want him in CF going forward not SS. Given the general mild question of his SS fielding I want Trea either learning the position at the major league level, or proving he can't, now.
The thing about shifting the "have to" makes sense, but the key is Rizzo doesn't "have to" this year. Turner in CF and Danny at SS worked to get this team to 95 wins and that's with Turner playing 70+ games. This gives Rizzo flexibility he doesn't have next year in dealing with FAs and trade partners. He can walk away from deals. Next year it'll be a lot harder because a plan that worked wont' be there and an internal plan that might work is unlikely to show up.
I like Danny. I think he can start for some teams as SS can be a hard position to fill. I like his bat as the worst one in the line-up. He has a lot of plusses to go along with those big minuses. (and I think he can walk more if asked to - it's not the Nats way though) I think in part fans are hard on him because of his position. A SS traditionally should be a slap hitting contact guy. Danny isn't. If Danny was a slick fielding RF, I think there'd be more forgiveness for his all or nothing approach. And SS if far more important to have a good fielder at! But the Nats have better options and other issues that may end up being holes that make starting Danny at SS a fallback plan, not something to start out with.
Out of the Box Idea
Stick with your slick fielding SS with pop.
Oh you think I mean Danny? No, I mean Stephen Drew. He's a gamble but unlike Danny he's a gamble that pays off at the plate sometimes. Meanwhile trade Danny for whatever you can get. The key here is there is not going to be a higher market for Danny than now. That doesn't mean it's a good market, but it does mean you are maximizing what you get back, which is something, rather than watch him walk away for nothing. So trade him now. That would normally mean then moving Trea to SS, but you don't have a player that played decent CF last year after him. You do have a player that played decent SS though. He'll have to be re-signed but you could probably get a nice bargain on a two year deal and if things go awry, he proved this year he's a fine bench player. You can always trade for a OF later in the year and shift things around. Trading for a SS is harder.
*What about C? Yeah well C is the hardest position to get ahead of. What about Werth in the OF? Hoping Robles suprises or something comes up. What about rotation post Gio? Lots of ptoential 5th starters there