I elect... to talk about Anthony Rendon! HAHAHAHHSHAHSHAHS
Last Year's Discussion
We had Rendon starting because it seemed to be the direction the Nats were heading. Remember in 2015 Rendon played 2B because Yuney was at 3B to start the year and didn't want to change. Man the 2015 Nats were stupid about things. We worried a little bit about Rendon's extensive injury history but realized that without a doubt he should be in the lineup somewhere. 2B gave them more options in theory but 3B was fine and probably where he belonged in a perfect world.
A lot of the problems with Rendon at third weren't about him, but about Yuney who was still on the roster at the time and needed a place to play. You put Rendon at 3B and Yuney probably moves to SS? That isn't good. But neither was 2B or anything really. But hey! It didn't end up being an issue. Yuney was dealt.
Rendon started very slowly. Thirty games in you had reason to begin to worry. He was down to .218 / .289 / .297 in Early May. But after that point Rendon hit like he did in 2014, putting up a .287 / .364 / .494 line. Unfortunately things ended poorly - he hit only .150 in the playoffs. Still you look at that 130 game run that was like his fringy MVP year in 2014 and his continued plus fielding and you have to feel good about the future.
My OOB plan was trading Giolito (as usual) for Arenando. That would have worked out fine but any out of the box plan for the infield means not signing Murphy and Murphy was the best so basically the Nats plan was the best.
Rendon starts at 3B. Espinosa is the bench replacement for this and all IF positions.
Reasoning on Presumed Plan
We talked about how Espy ended up on the bench with the SS discussion. There's been some talk about how he's not a great bench guy but you can't let a guys feelings effect whether he starts or not. If he can't handle being on the bench you trade him then.
As for why Rendon plays 3B, well I think we just covered it. He's most comfortable at third base. The stats and scouts agree, he fields the position really well. He can hit really well when healthy. At this point he hasn't turned the corner from his .285 20 HR very good bat to something more special, but he's hitting his prime (27 in June) and if he can stay healthy this will be his first back to back healthy major league seasons so there's hope for that too.
We had talked before about moving Rendon to 2B because he can play there and it frees up 3B, an easier position to fill. Now though Daniel Murphy is at 2B so this isn't an issue. This is an obvious move.
Problems with Presumed Plan
The biggest issue with Rendon is the obvious one. He gets hurt. A lot. He basically hasn't had back to back healthy years since starting college? High school? So expecting him to be healthy for all of 2017 is more than just your normal gamble.
As much as we can focus on the 130 games where he hit like he did in his best year, we can't deny those first 30 games happened. If you want to be real pessimistic you can look at the last 2 seasons and see a guy that might be an average hitter, not an above average one.
It is arguable that it still makes sense to play Rendon at 2B, even with Murphy. Murphy would then move to 1B, Zimm would sit and your offense and defense would be better.
Yes, Rendon gets hurt a lot. What, are you not going to play him? He's young enough you can still hope that he puts that behind him - at least for the next couple of years. He's good enough that you can't give up on him
Yes, you can spin it so he doesn't look like a very good hitter. But (1) even as just an average hitter his plus fielding makes him a startable third baseman and (2) it's a lot easier to spin it to make him look like a very good hitter. He got injured - hit worse - got healthy - hit better. That makes sense right?
As for playing him at 2B and Murphy at 1B - ok that can be argued as a 3B is easier to find than a 2B. But you know what's easier to find than a 3B? A 1B - so just replace Zimm and let your plus fielding 3B stay at 3B.
Out of the Box Idea
Trade Rendon. If Rendon has another injured year his value will take another hit and worse you have to start thinking about how he can't be part of the future. 2017 will be partially lost as will 2018 in a way as he recovers. If you do feel like you have to move on with him then you can deal him but you'd be dealing him off of injury. Even with controllable cheap years on hand the return won't be great.
But now he's coming off a healthy year. He has a lot of value. So maybe go for a flip. Of course trading Rendon means you are causing a problem so you definitively have to solve one in the trade. What about Rendon (plus?) for Jackie Bradley Jr? Benintendi can play CF. Devers, a question at time at 3B, could move to 1B or into the OF. I hate making the Red Sox better but doesn't Rendon kind of feel like a Red Sox player? Plus I think we'd all be happy to solve CF for the next 5 years and JBJ would likely do that. Age wise it's a near match. Contract wise the Nats get an extra year - hence the plus question. Again OOB means unlikely to happen for various reasons (like Red Sox might be better served keeping OF as is and hoping Devers fits in at 3B) but it's an idea.