Nationals Baseball: Selling low or getting out while the getting is not yet terrible?

Friday, February 07, 2014

Selling low or getting out while the getting is not yet terrible?

Rocket Bill mentioned yesterday that a dozen teams have contacted the Nats about Epsinosa. MLB Trade Rumors sums up the totality of Danny rumors over the off-season (it's not much) and once glance will tell you what the issue is. Other teams are looking at Espinosa not because they are enthralled with Danny Espinosa the player.  They are looking at Espinosa because they are enthralled with Danny Espinosa the "buy low" possibility.

As we've discussed before, going into Sept of 2012, Danny was a more than passable 2nd baseman. I know you hate his low average and strikeouts but he got on base ok, hit for power, and fielded well. Legit Top 10 MLB 2nd baseman (for what's that worth). Add to that that he's still not old and you have someone that teams are willing to take a gamble on. But given how absolutely hideous he was last year, the gamble they are willing to make is rightfully very small. The Nats understand all this but Rizzo does not want to sell low.

So it comes down to a staring contest. The Nats could use Danny as a back-up fielder or organizational depth in case Rendon or Desmond get injured. They don't need to deal him. At the same time another subpar year for Danny and you are looking at getting nothing for him. Are the Nats making the right move by hoping for a better deal for Danny? I think so.

I fall in with Rizzo on this one. Given his potential usefulness and his previous status as a starter I think one bad year (and one I'm sure was injury based - though I'm not sold the injuries have healed) is not enough to sell low on Danny. Selling low on Danny means trading him as if he was a terrible hitting bench player. That means you are going to get a fringe prospect or an old AAA guy or something like that, not a true prospect. When I think what would I rather have, Espinosa or one of these types the answer is easy. I'd rather have Espinosa.

I don't believe the whole "competition" thing is real (I think it's a smokescreen to build up value for Danny). I don't think that Danny will be happy in whatever role he falls to, be it bench player or AAA Rendon insurance. However, as callous as this may sound, I don't care if Danny is happy. We've seen how bad back-up infielders can be on even the best of teams. Danny can help the team in this role. They should keep him unless the deal is too good to pass up.

In the end if the Nats miss their chance on another Dakota Bacus then so be it. They should be focused on 2014 and in 2014 I don't see the Nats getting anyone in a deal for Danny that will fit the team better than Danny does himself.


cass said...

Although we have no idea how his bat will be, if Desmond or Rendon go down, at least we know he won't hurt us with the glove. No reason to ditch him now.

In general, though, I'd leave him in AAA until he gets his bat back. Mostly as injury insurance and getting him reps, cause until that happens, he won't have much value on the bench. If healthy, he could keep the infielders rested by giving them all a day off now and then and he'd still get to play a full game a couple times a week. And that assumes healthy infielders.

cass said...

Also, for everyone's amusement, Schoenfield ranks the Nats as the third best team in the Majors going into next season:

Matt said...

I mostly agree. If you can get a buy-low guy back in return, where it's a change of scenery type deal for both players, maybe that would make sense.

I agree that Danny's feelings shouldn't have much to do with what the Nats decide -- for all of them (Rizzo, Danny, the Lerners) it's business. In practice, though, bad feelings probably aren't going to help his performance (which is why, I get the sense that change of scenery type trades work out more often than I expect).

Also, cass -- I think an extra reason to stash him in AAA is that he still has options and he's ridiculously close to accumulating enough service time to hit arbitration. He has those performances of a few years ago to point to in hearings, so would still be getting a raise over league minimum. If you're the Nats, I think you want to keep him cheap until you know he's fixed.

Bote Man said...

My big question with Danny Espinosa is how big and how long this blind spot will persist that obscures the truth about his shoulder.

Or are they sticking their heads in the sand?

Wally said...

Completely agree with this article. Absolutely no reason for Nats to sell low. A hidden aspect to Danny's troubles last year was that his minors stint, including not bringing him up in Sep, delayed his arb year, so it is as cheap insurance as a team can get. it isn't even Lannan situation where they have to pay real money to keep him around.

Harper said...

cass - yeah - I'd rather have him in AAA too. PHing is hard enough, let alone when everyone is hanging on every at bat as proof you are back or not.

As for #3... Sure why not?

Matt - As always the right deal is a trump card. Not sure where the Nats need a buy low guy... 1B?

Bote Man - I guess they are thinking it was shoulder, then it was wrist, now it should be neither... I don't buy it but I also am not seeing Danny every day (or at all for that matter)

Wally - yeah, it's too bad for Danny but there's not a good reason to deal him unless the returen is high and why would it be?

cass said...


Why not? Cause I don't want all the hype again like last year. He has the Braves in 8th, as I recall. Also the Nats ahead of the Dodgers seems kinda dodgy, though they're closer.

I see the Nats more like the 3rd-5th best team in the NL, or 5th-10th in the majors at best. But huge error bars based on players like Ramos and Harper and pitcher health. Maybe I'm too pessimistic after last year, but I don't see the Nats has the third best team in the majors. I see them as a "decent chance at the playoffs" team rather than a "sure thing".

NotBobby said...

the great thing about having Espy on the bench is that he can spell Rendon and Desi. So on those days when it is a tough lefty pitcher the infield can be Zimmerman at 1, Espy at 2, Desi at SS, and Rendon at 3. Or Espy can just give Rendon a day off. And I am still not sold that Rendon can stay healthy enough to not need a top flight backup for him.

Chas R said...

I agree with Cass, I don't want to go there another jinxed year like the 2013 "World Series or bust year" !

The Nats may be the #3 team in MLB on paper, but they need to start acting and playing like it.

Harper said...

cass - I like the Nats 3rd in the NL (behind STL and Dodgers) and 5th overall (behind Det and TB - I love TB I think they'll run away and hide with the East). Likely to make playoffs as a division winner, unlikely to miss. It took a lot going wrong last year to put them a only few games out. No Comeuppance.

NB - you're right. Rendon's injury issues are a huge reason to hold onto Espy. Don't want to have him go down in May and spend 4 months looking at a 7-8-9 of Span - Carroll - Pitcher.

Chaz R - Jinxes bah! It's just hard to win. Things happen. I'm going bigger with hubris this year. Universe Series or Bust.

cass said...

You really don't see the Braves as being even with the Nats? I know they lost McCann, but it seems they're right there with the Nats this year. I have STL and LA as tops in the NL as well, with the Braves and Pirates right there with them.. Not sure about the Giants, Diamondbacks, and Reds.

Don't follow the AL as closely, but I hear you about TB. Definitely Detroit. Probably the Red Sox ahead of the Nats? I'd put Oakland and Texas about on the Nats level, I think, maybe a little better.

Apparently there are now Burnett to the Nats rumors. Which probably means it won't happen - Rizzo likes to strike out of the blue. Still think signing Burnett would be wonderful, but I admit to being terrified of a SP injury next year. I'd pay him whatever it takes for a one or two year deal. Seems to be the best player left overall and flags fly forever. Plus it wouldn't cost the Nats squat in the long run. Also would give us another good lefty in the pen - Det.

Seriously, what's another $20 million?

(This is now my pet project until Burnett signs elsewhere.)

cass said...

Correction: I have the Braves and Pirates right with the Nats, not right with the Dodgers and Cardinals.

Tier 1: St. Louis, LA.
Tier 2: Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Washington.

Maybe Pittsburgh behind if they don't sign Burnett, but really, he's just one player so he shouldn't move the rankings too much.

Nattydread said...

Always nice for the fans to have a Come Back Player of the Year. That's gotta be worth something.

blovy8 said...

I could see Rizzo's price being met with Espinosa in a package late in spring training if it's clear he's not going to fit into the plan, i.e., Carroll looks less than 40, Walters impresses Matt Williams with his defense, and the pitching depth looks too good not to use it to improve the offensive spot now being taken up by Moore. If you have Carroll temporarily in the job, and Walters seeming to be more ready in AAA, that's no longer worrysome, and 1st may be a bigger issue of depth.

Anonymous said...

Somebody’s got to take the contrary, and perhaps more realistic, view. I’ll preface my remarks by saying that I once liked Espinoza to the point that I thought they should consider trading Desmond and putting Danny at short. But much has happened since then. Namely, even before he got hurt (and then got hurt worse), Espinoza’s habits at the plate got worse, and the league compounded matters by figuring him out. But instead of adjusting, Danny acted like a stubborn kid and kept up the same approach, even as the Ks piled up.

The defensive Danny who showed up at NatsFest did NOT sound like a guy who was ready to admit that he had any problems other than the injuries, though. But he did – big problems. Some of you may like to see a guy continually flailing at pitches in the dirt a foot off the plate, but I don’t. And I really don't want that approach from my pinch hitters. Enduring Chad Tracy was bad enough.

Aside from that key point, a rotator cuff injury is a big deal. Some guys don’t ever lift their arms above their shoulders. I’m sure Danny had a lot of pain with that (and with the wrist). But will he be anywhere close to being ready? Werth spent half a season last year getting strength back after his wrist injury, even as he insisted that he was full speed.

As for the supposed interest around the league in Espinoza, that’s largely fake, planted by Boras. He knows that Danny is dead in the water in Washington, bound to be a backup at best. The best thing for him likely would be a new home. I think everyone realizes that, even Rizzo, who is probably happy to have Boras trying to remind people that Espi can play and is available.

To a certain extent, Harper is right that there’s little reason for the Nats to sell low. But there is one that might propel them to try to do something before the spring games start. What if Danny shows up in Viera and is obviously not nearly recovered and/or is still really flailing at the plate? That won’t help even his limited value.

There are plenty of teams that need middle infielders. This is a guy who can play top-level defense at 2B or SS and once hit 21 HRs, available for a fraction of the cost of Stephen Drew. There’s got to be some sort of a market for him.

As for the alternatives on the Nats’ bench, Carroll’s ship sailed long ago. Walters may have the most potential, but you would think the Nats would prefer that he stay at AAA playing every day to work on his suspect defense. Career minor leaguer Josh Johnson put up some darn good numbers at AA/AAA last year but hasn’t gotten much mention in the utility conversation. Kobernus has, and his speed would be a nice weapon for late-inning rallies. Beyond those guys, Rhymes is probably the most likely fall-back.