Nationals Baseball: Lesspinosa

Monday, December 12, 2016


Danny Espinosa has been traded. This is a minor tragedy as the thought of singing "Danny Espinosa" to the tune of "Gary, Indiana" will go through my head far fewer times now that he's on the west coast. It's also a shame because as I noted earlier - Danny ain't problem #1. The Nats had the 2nd worst 1B situation last year in all of baseball.  In case you think that's an aberration, the year before that they were in the lower third of baseball. This is a pattern that isn't changing as Zimm and Robinson keep getting further from their primes. And catcher - well there is good reason to believe it won't just be worse next year (how could it not - it was nearly best this year) but potentially terrible.

But still Danny occupied a spot that the future of the Nats franchise is penciled into. His secondary and tertiary positions were occupied by players more productive than him. To keep him playing someone had to be out of position, with one exception which we'll get to in a second. And he wasn't a good enough player to start moving things around for.* He's a speed and defense guy with the added skill of HR power. But he can't hit for average at all and he strikes out all the time. That's good enough to start somewhere, but expendable on a contending team. Much easier than accommodating him would be solving the CF issue, shifting Turner to where he belongs, and pushing Danny to the bench or out the door. And that's what happened.

I guess Danny could have been kept around on the bench but he supposedly is not a happy camper when sitting, everyone seems to love (former D-back!) Stephen Drew, and you might even get Drew for cheaper than what Danny would cost (5+ mill).  In the end it just wasn't a difficult choice to send him on his way.

Who'd they get for him? Two nobodies.  Kyle McGoohan is a starter with stuff that's not particularly missable and with pretty bad control. But he's not old! Austin "Don't call me Kearns. Don't call me Amy" Adams is a reliver with no control who's worked himself through the minors by... inertia I guess. Maybe they figure out what's up with one of these and come up with a good player.  I'm not betting on it. This was a dump trade. But I do believe Rizzo when he says this was in the works for a while. This was a planned dump trade.   Like Gio to the Yankees that's on hold as they decide if they want to spend that money on Jansen or not.

The Nats aren't better today then they were Friday but they aren't significantly worse and a Drew signing would make it a wash.  Now if they go with Difo instead... that would be a mistake. It would also be telling.  I've said how the Nats are around budget this year.  Well what I mean is that they are very slightly over, just a few million more than last year. Going with Difo instead of Drew, assuming nothing else happens this off-season would suggest that even that small increase is too much. It doesn't mean the Nats won't spend money in the future - when MASN is figured out, when Werth's contract gets off the books - but it means we know where the Nats will be for the near future and it's not payroll competitive.  Doesn't mean they aren't team competitive, but it keeps the job harder for Rizzo.

Oh that's right - the one exception.  Move Murphy to first. Play Danny at second. That's the optimal solution. But the Nats didn't/don't have the guts to do that. (and the fans don't want it either)

*of course neither was Yunel Escobar but they did that anyway.


NatsVA said...

So many Nats fans today playing "Taps" and weeping on social media after Danny Espinosa being traded is bizarre. Apparently you can suck at the plate for nearly your entire career but as long as you have a fun mustache it's Rizzo's fault. The guy skipped the annual Fanfest as an f-you to the team for trading for Eaton. You ain't Cal, Danny.

One thing I wish the Nats fanbase would do is grow a f-ing spine. We don't have to be Philly fans, but holding players accountable would be a good start. We're too nice. The only correct response to Espi being traded shpuld be "don't let the door hit you on the way out."

Scherzer's Blue Eye said...

Outside of his fantastic 2 weeks in June, Espinosa was an automatic out, much more than Zimmerman. His slash line: .190/.241/.317, for a .558 OPS, 30.4% K rate. The OBP is buoyed by batting in front of the pitcher--getting the "unintentional-intentional walk" because, let's be honest, who would intentionally walk someone with a 30% K rate? That kind of production does not warrant that attitude.

I keep hoping for a dead-cat bounce season from Zimm, but I think that ship has sailed. He is penciled in at 1st, batting 8th the next couple of seasons, because of his contract. I wouldn't mind upgrading his backup. Robinson is okay, but I think we can do better.

Overall, I don't feel good about this team. I hate our catching situation this year--7-8-9 are going to be auto-outs again. I am not a fan of Rizzo's moves this year (and I am an avid Mike Rizzo defender!)

DezoPenguin said...

I like Rizzo's moves inasmuch as Adam Eaton is a better hitter than Danny Espinosa. Norris has developed into a decent defender and at least Fangraphs' column on his batted ball profile suggests he isn't likely to suck on ice as a hitter this year.

The Zimmerman situation is the real problem. He's going to have to be God-awful again this year (at least) for the team to bench him. He's basically our Ryan Howard, except it was injuries rather than "we already know this contract is a bad idea" that destroyed him. In 2016 he was actually a worse hitter than Espinosa, and unlike Espi he didn't even have a good month. (I mean, you can say "outside of June Epsi sucked" and you'd be right, but you can't even say "outside of X" for Zim. He was just bad, even while hitting home runs in April. And he couldn't even generate value with speed and defense.)

On the other hand, the Nationals won 95 games last year with Strasburg missing two months to injury, Joe Ross missing half the year to injury, Espinosa having one good month with the bat, CF being a sucking chest wound on offense and defense for half the year, and 1B being a sucking chest wound on offense and defense for the entire year. And with Papelbon as the closer for half the year.

#Werthquake (Formerly clip & store) said...

I personally would also prefer Turner ss, espi at 2nd, Murph 1st, zimm bench too. Hit Zim is making too much they would never do that.

Chas R said...

Danny is a decent player at a defense-first position. He also had rare power for a middle infielder. I think many fans really liked Danny as a sort of underdog type. Many others were frustrated with his insistence on sticking with an approach at the plate that didn't seem to be in the team's best interest. He's bit of an enigma, but no doubt he is a decent MLB level player at premium defensive position.

KO said...

It's crazy that with all these cost saving moves, their projected opening day lineup is still owed $2 million more than the 2016 opening day lineup based on MLBTR exp. salaries.

Still would be surprised if they signed Jansen but would love to see it happen.

blovy8 said...

I'm certainly in the minority as one not down on Zim despite all evidence. Having said that, you just can't bet on him staying healthy all year, so there needs to be a reasonably good infielder to plug in, and it's complicated by that guy needing to be able to fake short a bit if Turner gets nicked up because as constituted that means Difo at the moment, who seems better suited to be the next up MI from AAA, unless you dump Taylor and you need him as a speed guy. Actaully, that's not the worst idea, currently they probalby see Taylor as RH power and speed, but I'm about ready to give up on him as a reliable source of either in a bench role, and Heisey is better as a PH for power. Taylor is not a good baserunner, I bet Difo would be better in that role even if no one is much scared of his bat. Flexibility probably starts with getting a better fourth OF who can maybe hack 1st. Drew, even though he can play all over, makes me worry about the vertigo flaring up unexpectedly so that you'd still need another infielder. I guess Robinson is expendable though I like his professional ab's they don't seem to result in much damage. A case could have been made for a guy like Moreland who could play some LF and 1B, but he's gone. You'd have to imagine it'll be a guy who's fallen out of demand, unless there's several million more the Lerners will pay that we haven't heard of (or Boras brings in his binders in February). Pretty sure right now they'd rather pay that 5+ for a reliever like Holland or Neftali Feliz.

IMO, Norris should be the 8 guy, he's got a good enough idea of the zone to take the walks that are given, and has the least upside of anyone in the lineup. He can probably run well enough to get to second on bunts.

Harper said...

NatsVA - Accountable for what? Danny was put out there on a daily basis last year and... was pretty much an average NL shortstop in overall production, with great defense balancing out his offensive deficiencies. Even focusing on the offense - for four seasons of his career he put up basically blah stats, certainly not sucking, and at least his terrible 2013 and maybe 2014 too has to be attributed to injury given how off they were from surrounding years. Factor in his defense and guess what? He's easily a better than average infielder during that time.

At this point let him go, the average has dipped too far and as a 29 year old it's not very likely to climb back significantly meanwhile his D and speed will only decline. But let's not act like Danny was an albatross on the Nats for half a decade.

Rob Evans said...

Also don't think Danny skipping out on Fanfest was him giving the fans the finger. Think it that he was told he was being traded and not to come. Maybe I'm wrong on that though.

PotomacFan said...

Danny was fine, we got what we expected -- good defense, good power, terrible batting average, high strikeout rate. We should wish him well in Anaheim, where he will be part of terrific defensive middle infield (Andrelton Simmons is the SS). But it was time for Danny to go. Last year, he played nearly every game, and he had his chance. And if he was going to be an unhappy camper on the bench this year, with a high salary, he had to go. Time for everyone to move on.

Anonymous said...

The thing that bothered me about Espinosa was that he never wanted to try and adapt his style, almost daring Rizzo to trade him. No matter how many strikeouts he had, he continued to swing for the fences, except for the occasional drag bunt which frankly he never displayed much skill with. Yes, it was great when he hit one out and the week in June will always be a great memory. But I'm going to enjoy seeing Adam Eaton hit some singles and doubles more often and then having one of the other bats drive him in. Since this is his FA year, maybe we'll see Danny display some more plate discipline and choke up a little. Better late, than never.

Zimmerman11 said...

Zimmerman just has to get hot in the postseason again (this assumes we make the postseason), which a well-timed cortisone shot can help with. He's CLUTCH, Harper!!!

blovy8 said...

I don't think the heavy air in So. Cal is going to be kind to Espy, Nor will playing away games in Oakland and Seattle. And it could be that Texas and Houston have enough pitchers to keep his windmill impression sharp. I think 15-18ish rather than another 24HR. He's a one-year stopgap, they'd have to hope for someone to take that job from him at some point or that he has a hot enough summer to fool someone into trading for him.

Nattydread said...

Espinosa was a Rizzo favorite. One thinks that after this year the future was very much decided by the Nats lineup needs. Rizzo got him a flight to LA and a starting gig. Win - win.

JE34 said...

Why I heart Tanner Roark - when faced with competition, losing his spot, etc... Tanner was team-first all the way, did what they asked of him. He knew he'd get his chance, and when he did, he made the absolute most of it. Impossible not to love Tanner - everyone wants humble, team-first success stories like that.

Contrast with Espi, who was given the starting SS job in 2016, and struck out 1/3 of the time. Aside from a few weeks in June (when the big uppercut was less prominent - he drove the ball *without* the giant loop in his swing), Espi did not adjust to do what the team needed from him (better contact, with RISP especially). Team makes moves to improve upon his weaknesses, and he has the gall to pout publicly about a reduced role. Try not striking out so dang much before you whine about your role, Danny.

I will miss watching Danny warm up in the infield... I never got tired of his cannon throws from the LF grass. But we can do without his me-first attitude - at the plate and in the press.

KO said...

Jansen going back to the Dodgers. Another FA missed out on

Josh Higham said...

@KO Yes, another free agent missed out on, but also $80 saved for a guy who hardly anyone would expect to be dominant for 5 years. Has baseball learned nothing from Papelbon? Long, big money contracts for relievers are silly. Sure I'd love to have the 9th locked up, but there's no way I'm gonna give a Werth-style contract to a guy who could easily be awful next year. Remember how the Giants had 2 formerly good closers on the roster last year and blew like 30 saves. That's what 5 years of Chapman or Jansen could be, except expensive, too.

Pescado said...

I've got a soft for excellent defense. Danny was so steady at short, which was needed after years with Desmond's error-prone play. I won't miss Danny's 175 strikeouts, but I'm sad to see his sure hands go.

Jay said...

I think Rizzo has really misplayed this entire offseason. If he trades for Colome from Tampa and signs Dexter Fowler - same money and prospects for example. Everyone is saying what a great job he has done. Now the Nats have no closer. Unless they drain the farm system more with a trade. Boswell mentioned today that a Nats front office person said they think Treinen will close if they can't find anyone. Hahahahaha. I won't be watching if that happens. The Nats have a serious problem with swinging and missing on all kinds of people. Just the last two years. Zobrist, Heyward, Phillips, Sale, McCutcheon, Chapman, Jansen. Other than Boras clients - whom the Lerners love for some reason, and getting lucky on Daniel Murphy, the Nats haven't been too well lately. I'm now officially worried. Hoping Greg Holland still has it (he's a Boras client too), or going with Neftali Feliz aren't great options in my opinion. What a joke.

Dustin M. Smith said...

Hey Harper, I know you feel like the Nats aren't saving up for some big addition, but rather just getting down to their current payroll. That said, you think there's any chance the Nats jump in for another big bat? With a surplus of free agent sluggers now likely to sign for less than expected (Encarnacion, Bautista, Trumbo), isn't there value in adding one to the mix when both Zimmerman and Werth are questionable to A) stay healthy and B) be productive? Isn't this lineup tempting enough to at least have Rizzo considering the possibility?

CF Eaton
SS Turner
RF Harper
2B Murphy
1B Trumbo / Bautista
3B Rendon
LF Werth
C Lobaton

Or are the Nats too loyal / stubborn / cheap to consider alternatives to Zimmerman at this point? Thoughts?

JE34 said...

Does anyone know what the Nats offered Melancon? Here's what he got from San Fran:

4 yrs, $62M:
A full no-trade clause
Melancon can opt out after 2 years
A $20 million bonus, with $12 million paid up front and $8 million deferred
$4 million salary in 2017
$10 million in 2018
$14 million in both 2019 and 2020

Jay said...

They supposedly offered $10 million less. My guess is more to do with his age. They offered more than LA but Jansen preferred to stay in LA. Robertson isn't that good a closer. They can't get Colome. The only thing they can hope for is signing Greg Holland and hoping he works out. When did DC become a small to mid-market team. Boswell put in his chat that they traded for Eaton to prepare to let Harper walk. ????
I thought we waited through all of those awful years as part of the plan. Was the plan to let just about everyone walk??

I have to say that I am pretty discouraged at this point. I'll admit I'm no baseball expert, but so far I'd say it's been a pretty awful offseason.

Fries said...


While I'm not as pessimistic as you, I am disappointed by all the swing and misses. I think it's the Lerner's fault though. Rizzo is hamstrung by having to create deferred contract offers and never overspending. And to be fair to Rizzo, everything we swung and missed on the other team overspent. I don't know the details of the Jansen offer, but the Nats probably offered more money but with deferrals, just like every other contract over the last few years. Players are generally going to follow a) the money and b) the chances of winning the WS. Rizzo can't lure players with either of those right now because the Nats have consistently come up short in the playoffs. It's a stupid mentality, but that's the way it is. That's why players choose SF or LA or Chi instead of DC

Ole PBN said...

Jay - remember Boz is a know-it-all and his guess is as good as your own. We don't know what they plan to do about Harper. How about this, if he puts up similar numbers to 2016 in '17 and '18, would you offer him north of $400 million? For one player? No one player is worth that kind of money, I'm sorry. Bryce isn't ridiculous for asking for that, because someone would pay him. And they'll have fun watching him, just like we did. But tell me what the Yanks got out of A-Rod and how much they regret that? So many things can happen with Bryce over the next 13!!! years that we can't possible say committing that money is SMART move. GM's don't care about the fans hearts, or how cool it would be to see Harper get 3,000 hits or 500 HR in a Nats uniform. The want a title, and good - because that's all Rizzo should care about.

I will agree with you in taking a flyer on Greg Holland. And as I'm thinking outside the box, Joba Chamberlain on a minor league deal? Or tops 1yr/$1M right?

Last point I'll make on this Eaton situation: ESPN wrote a piece on how Fowler and Eaton are similar players. Eaton is younger, and we get him for 5 years and a much much much cheaper price than STL got Fowler at. The only way we "regret" this trade is if Eaton sucks for like 4 out the next 5 years and Giolito is a perennial All-Star year-in and year-out. Or if Fowler turns into Barry Bonds and starts putting up career numbers into his mid/late 30's. What do you honestly think is more likely to happen? Eaton's a Nat - start loving it. I'll be the guy in section 117 telling all you bandwagoners with #1 jersey's "I told you so."

Jay said...

I can buy that the Lerners are restricting what Rizzo can do. My point is more that this offseason has lacked a cohesive plan. I feel like they shed payroll to try and add a closer and now they have missed out on all 3. Maybe Greg Holland signs and pitches like he did before TJ surgery. It just makes zero sense to me to do various things to keep the "window open" until 2018. However, in 2017 the plan is somehow to have Blake Treinen close.

JW said...

The problem with the Eaton trade is that there is nothing left to trade and it's a weak FA market. But that's really more about the Nats current farm system and then other factors that are out of their control. The Eaton trade says three things to me about the Nats perspective -- 1) CF was Priority #1 for 2017; 2) Nats were no longer as confident in Giolito and Lopez; 3) Rizzo still firmly believes that bullpen arms are pretty fungible.

I don't know that I disagree with CF being priority 1. As a fan, the bullpen seems extremely important, probably outsized. It's a central element to the part of the game where there is the most anxiety/tension. But better production from the lineup is going to decrease the odds of being in those higher leverage situations. The past two postseasons have seen bullpens play a bigger part as well. So that amplifies that perspective on the part of fans. But it's not like the game has completely changed. Having a dominant bullpen is a great asset for a team but it is just one piece. We could have history's best bullpen but if you can't score runs you still won't win.

Again, the issue is that there is very little out there free agent wise and there is nothing left to trade (or very little left to trade).

But I think 1B and Catcher part of the equation are going to be bigger problems for the Nats than not signing one of the premier closers. Zimmerman is going to kill this team if he can't bounce back.

John C. said...

Jay, you are definitely in the "glass is not only half empty, it's cracked and filled with DOOM" camp. The Nats didn't "swing and miss" at players - with the exception of Zobrist, they got outbid (and Zobrist was also offered more money by the Giants than he got from the Cubs - so it wasn't a Nats thing, it was a Cubs thing). Rizzo doesn't make the mistake that so many people do of getting caught up in a bidding war and escalating past his price point. When he hits his price point, he walks. And the second thing you are glossing over is that most of the deals you are ragging on the Nats for "swinging and missing" on have not looked like particularly good deals going forward. Heyward and O'Day in particular look like bad, potentially disastrous contracts. Just imagine if Rizzo had done what you are lamenting that he didn't and beaten the Cubs and O's offers for those guys. You'd be killing Rizzo. Which of course you're doing for missing out on those players. That's the great part about being a fan - intellectual consistency isn't part of the job description :)

Rizzo was by all accounts in a good mood at FanFest; one person I know got a moment with him and praised the Eaton trade "no matter what anyone says." Rizzo's response was a cheerful "what makes you think I listen to what anyone else says?"

Anonymous said...

I think the fact that the Nats have "missed out" on signing an elite closer is dodging a bullet, not for a lack of trying. You'd really want to spend $80 million on a closer? One who relies on a high-90's fastball (100+ in Chapman's case)? I think these guys will have seriously diminished their value after year 2 or 3. Now you could say the same about Max's contract, but I'd rather have a CY Young pitcher for 3-4 of the 7 years instead of a lock-down closer for 2-3.

Rizzo (a smart GM) offers players a combination of what he thinks their value is and what he thinks will get the deal done. Sometimes he offers both: Giolito/Lopez/Robles for Sale, and it doesn't get done. Any more than what we offered wouldn't be worth it in my opinion. Same as offering more money for Jensen than LA did (glad he didn't take it). With the deferred money (again not Rizzo's or Lerner's fault) due to the MASN situation, you can't blame players for taking another team's offer.

Anonymous said...

And if Bryce thinks he's worth $450 million and we don't resign him, I don't blame the Nats. Some team will pay that, and pay the consequences later. I'd much rather have a shot at the title every year than short-term **potential success** and an albatross contract that handicaps the franchise for a decade.

While I defend Rizzo on a lot of topics - no one is addressing management's failure of extending Zimmerman at a high dollar figure. Wasn't that resigning right around the time of his throwing/elbow/shoulder/plantar fasciitis/whatever ailments came to light? What did they think was going to happen. My only explanation is sentimental. How many of us said this was a smart idea at the time? I didn't - but I did say "awww that's cool, good for Zimm, he'll be a Nat for life and that's cool :)"

blovy8 said...

Anonymous, I think that was before the foot thing and the shoulder. But - if Zim is even an averagey 1B, that's not an onerous deal. He's not old except in body wear and tear. I'm pretty sure there aren't a lot of guys who have 10 walk-off homers ready to sign with us for the postseason. Werth's $$$ is off the books after next year, so the next overpaid guy to bitch at will be Scherzer or Strasburg, not Zim. Essentially, the Nats are still paying for accepting their court-enforced second-class citizenship in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. The mere fact that they spend more than the Orioles in this situation ought to be enough, but no, we have to be NY, LA, Chicago or the ownership doesn't care. Clearly, even in the best case scenario we don't even have the whole market or legacy fanbase like Boston or really ANY other team that's non-expansion. All we can do is aspire to be something like San Francisco and let the Orioles be the A's. Having a millionaire overpay for stars gets you Detroit.

Zimmerman11 said...

Current state of affairs highlights the nonsense about overpaying for Werth, to make DC a more desirable destination for future FAs who we wouldn't have to overpay as much. We're

It's clear we lose out of FAs even when offering more money... if you want a FA, you have to blatantly overpay, like with Fowler. The Jansen deal didn't have a bunch of deferred money in it... this MASN debacle has to get resolved, too.

Ole PBN said...

Blovy... I didn't know that we should be looking at guys who've hit a lot of walk-off HR's. To your point, Ramos has caught the 2nd most no-hitters of any catcher in history (3) including a 20k game, but we didn't seem to take that into consideration for re-signing him. Also to your point, Emmanuel Burris now has the longest hair in the Nats system, maybe that's why we picked him up?

Point is, these things don't matter - except in the "fun fact" column. I value Zimm as a former gold glove 3B and a productive bat from 2005-2013.

Josh Higham said...


I agree that "we won't have to overpay" was a sort of silly argument given the size of the contract Max apparently needed to come here, but on the other hand, Murph would have been a good deal even if he was normal last year. If you're into narratives, there's no denying that Werth and his big contract was a big part of making the Nats "respectable."

Depending on which WAR you use and how many dollars each win is worth, Jayson's been worth easily $90 million and maybe a bit more than $100. Give him 1 WAR this year (I kind of think he'll be closer to 2, but I'm probably in the minority there) and he's looking at no worse than 80% of his contract's value actually realized, and maybe close to 90%. Insert some narrative you like and it's a great contract.

Zimmerman11 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zimmerman11 said...

Jayson's been Werth it. I saw a similar analysis on the deal recently and was happy to see it.

The point is if Rizzo was serious about getting Jansen, then he knew he'd have to pay more than LAD were offering. We didn't offer significantly more than the next highest bidder, who happened to be Jansen's current team, so he stayed put. Rizzo n company were playing serious PR on Jansen. And I think I'm glad we didn't blow our wad on a closer.

LAD on the other hand...also got Justin Turner on the cheap... only 4 years!

Bjd1207 said...

Sorry I'm way late to the party but wanted to chime in about Reynaldo Lopez (last thread).

Remember that he had a HUGE jump in velocity toward the end of 2014. They tweaked something with his delivery and he shot up from 93-94 on the gun to up around 97-98. That coincides with the SO/9 jump that you see in his stats, and I don't think it's right to just consider those the extremes of random variance. The control and results in the majors are definitely of concern, but he significantly increased his stock and potential with that change in delivery. Seeing if I can dig up an article about it.

Fries said...

Holland to the White Sox...does that mean Robertson is on the move?

Jay said...

Why would Holland to the White Sox mean Robertson is on the move? Though Robertson is not listed as an attendee at the White Sox fan fest in January and Jose Quintana is (there are only 8 current White Sox players listed). Lucas Giolitto is listed as a prospect attending Soxfest with Yoan Moncada and others.

Harper said...

Fries - Derek Holland, not Greg. Texas starter.

Fries said...

Oops my bad, definitely didn't read that update close enough.

Anonymous said...

Mark Simon presents the Danny Espinosa All-Stars