Nationals Baseball: Offseason Position Discussion : Shortstop

Friday, October 11, 2013

Offseason Position Discussion : Shortstop

Presumed Plan :  Ian Desmond will play shortstop. As noted in the 2nd base analysis, Lombo will likely back-up the MI positions.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : After two seasons of disappointing both at the plate and the field Ian Desmond put everything together in 2012. His .292 / .335 / .511 line and superior defense made him an All-Star. While last season wasn't quite as good, it was still and elite year for a shortstop. He's put himself in the conversation for best shortstop in the majors. True the conversation begins with "Are there any challengers to Tulowitzki's spot at best SS in baseball?" but that's still very very good. At 28 and cheap there is really no reason to look elsewhere.

We talked about Lombo when we discussed 2nd. Same things apply. Good enough to be back-up given that he does a bunch of stuff at an average major league level.

 Problems with Presumed Plan : I suppose that Desmond could regress a bit more. He did run hot and cold last year. He also packed a lot of pop into one month. (9 homers of 20 in July). He's not immune to injury, playing only 130 games in 2012.

Lombo : Again imperfect back-up if he needs to play more than a fill-in roll. I suspect it would be even worse at SS than 2B, because I think Lombo's range might be exposed. No power or patience.

My take : This was really easy wasn't it? You could be afraid Ian would regress but two straight years of good offensive and defensive production and an optimal age for 2014 make it silly to worry about. Injuries are always a concern but outside of 2012 he has played 3 full seasons as a starter. Not quite an iron man as he gets nicked and bruised here and there but close enough.

Lombo is fine if his role is limited to last guy off the bench. Basically, the CI, OF and maybe even C back-ups need to provide power and have at least one guy that would be ok playing full time, if not 2. It's probably easier to find that type of player in those positions (maybe not C) than in MI, thus why it's ok to keep the Nationals unofficial mascot.

Outside the Box Suggestion : Like we talked about with Ramos, you don't move young, cheap and good off a premium position. So the only outside the box idea is to trade. Like to the Cardinals. What!?! Make your enemy stronger? Listen, you all might hate the Cards but the truth is they are LOADED. Not just this year but in the minors. They have OFs, Ps, CIs out the wazoo who could be impact players BUT they don't have a SS. Daniel Descalso hasn't been able to get over the hump and recreate his minor leagues success. Pete Kozma makes Lombardozzi look like Eckstein at the plate. So they actually could use Desmond. And in return the Nats could get young players but players ready to contribute now. Prospects are fine, but trading Desmond for prospects 2-3 years down the road only creates a "not quite good enough team in this way" that will morph into a "not quite good enough team in that way" down the line.

So how about Desmond and junk for Matt Adams, Carlos Martinez, and Descalso? Adams gives the Nats the masher at 1st they are dying for to replace LaRoche (the Cards don't need him with Craig at 1st and options behind that). Martinez gives them a fantastic arm for the pen and possibly a future closer to help replace the will be gone Soriano, the aging Clippard (29 and closing in on FA) and the headcase Storen. (Cards smart enough to know relievers are fungible. Have Rosenthal in late innings for youth. Plenty of arms to replace). Descalso is merely a throw in that the Cards don't need anymore to give the Nats someone to play SS. No he's not very good, but he's had suspiciously low BABIP years that make me think there's a league average hitter in there. I guess if you like Greg Garcia better he could fit here.

Any other plan won't work. If the Nats try to work a three team trade and get a decent SS back, why wouldn't the Cards just kick the Nats out of the deal and get that SS for themselves for a lot cheaper? The Cardinals have a lot of SP arms but I have a hard time seeing a team trade a major league ready power hitter and a major league ready starter, even if they can afford to do it. And the Nats, like I said, don't want help later. They want help now. Plus, in a crazy lucky world, Espy could get surgery now, be back for the start of the season, hitting like he always has and playing SS as good or better than Desmond.

No, I don't endorse this plan, but you come up with a better one. No one else needs a SS and has enough decent young players to give back immediately to the Nats.


Anonymous said...

If you want to trade a SS to the Cards for Matt Adams, what about Zach Walters. If Desi gets a long-term extension, there isn't really a place for Walters, and he has the potential to become a star in his own right.

Donald said...

Yeah, I guess you had to come up with some out-of-box suggestion to keep with the format, but I don't think anyone would actually pick it. Desi is as close to a guaranteed spot as anyone in the line-up.

Harper said...

Anon - if the Cards would do it I would do that (but I don't think they would) Adams hit .284 with 17 HRs in just over 100 games. He's here. Walters hit .254 with more pop but NO patience in AAA. He's there. Plus SS isn't his best position. He can play it but only ok right now and that's not likely to improve. More likely he should play 3rd. The Cards already have a future guy for that in Kolten Wong.

Donald - Yep. I also like to see if I can come up with something. I actually like this better than moving Zimm to 2nd. It's funny (expected?) but out of like the top 9 SS, 6 of them are on playoff teams. Only the Cards and Pirates don't have decent SS. Os, Rangers are in good shape too. so who would NEED Desmond are only going to be a couple teams, likely too fringy to afford to trade anyone good back.

Wally said...

The trade scenario isn't crazy, especially when you consider what it will likely take to lock him up beyond two years. I wouldn't do it as suggested, but if its Joe Kelly instead of Martinez, I probably would. And forget Descalso, just take a flyer on a low A guy and hope that you get lucky in four years. I do think Desi is a top 5 SS now, and with two years of control, should get a haul, and I like the Espy to SS option. It has a chance of a better option than most teams have right now.

Chas R said...

Eezy peezy Harper. We don't want Desi going anywhere, not just because of his offensive and defensive skills, but he has really stepped up to be a soft spoken but solid leader team Captain. The mojo that would dissipate if he was traded would be way bad for the Nats.

I wish we had a better replacement for him. Man, it would be great to get a healthy Espy back.

test said...

What's the over the hill age for a SS? Specifically, do we want to sign him to a long-term deal as common sense people say? Or do we ride out the arbitration years and let him walk as a 31 year old SS?

Donald said...

@Chris S - there's a decent chance the next manager will have rather strong opinions about durability from the SS position.

Anonymous said...

Desi was 2d to Tulo in WAR and SLG among SS, 4th in OBP, 3d in HRs. There are not that many good offensive SS out there, and Desi is elite by any definition.

What hasn't been mentioned yet is how Desmond seems to have stepped up as a team leader. Yes, the dreaded "intangibles." But he's got it, and there isn't enough of it in the Nats' clubhouse right now, so let's keep what we've got.

As for the questions about how will he age at SS, if we sign him for 5-6 years now, the contract will be up when he's 34-35. That's reasonable. He's in fantastic physical condition.

I'm not as keen as Harper is on Lombo as the backup at SS. His arm just isn't that great. That's why Davey gave Rendon most what little backup time there was at SS.

As for Walters, he would seem to have max trade value now coming off the 29 HRs, which we would hope would blind teams to the .286 OBP and 134 Ks in 134 games.

JCCfromDC said...

If the Cardinals were in another league I might think about it if they offered a large package for Desmond. But the Nats will have to get through the Cardinals to get to the WS, so I think filling in one of the few chinks in their armor is a tough sell.

I'm on the "keep Espinosa in Syracuse as a backup SS" camp. Lombo is fine for a handful of games here or there, but if Desmond gets seriously hurt Espinosa at least offers a plus glove and plus arm (admittedly with a "questionable" bat).

BlueLoneWolf said...

...Back up the money truck, because you REALLY aren't getting anything much better than he is. Even if you trade him for prospects, do we want to become a perpetually rebuilding team again? Desmond belongs in the Capital, end of story.

Zimmerman11 said...

Desmond's the last Expo... he's not going ANYWHERE!!! At least, not without bringing back John Lannan.

Offseason plan? Don't spend 300M on Robinson Cano. Interview Cal Ripken for the mgr job, then hire Randy Knorr, kick the tires on Jacoby Ellsbury, but only to drive the price up for whoever gets him. (as another favor to Boras, who will then maybe allow us to sign our guys long term).

I like the team. I'm sorry we missed out on Prince Fielder, and am disappointed Espy got hurt, but whatchyagonnado?

Theo Mackie said...

What about a Walters for James Loney trade? Tampa owes us. We could throw in T-Mo or whoever they want but SS is weak for them and we need a 1B.