In a recent column, Jayson Stark floats an interesting trade scenario: basically the Nats trade Adam LaRoche, move Ryan Zimmerman to first base, move Anthony Rendon to his natural third, and recall the hopefully back-on-track Espinosa.
In other words, the exact future scenario envisioned for this team before locking in LaRoche for 2 years at first base, necessitating the jettison of Michael Morse (and his offense) this past off-season.
He wouldn’t have reported it if he hadn’t heard some rumblings in the industry about it; how seriously would the Nats consider such a move?
Major issue with this situation? You’re losing LaRoche’s bat. This team needs all the offense it can get; it doesn’t need to trade their cleanup hitter away. In this scenario you’re replacing LaRoche like-for-like in the rotation with Danny Espinosa, not exactly an even deal.
We’ve already heard that the team is playing Espinosa at short in AAA, in what most believe is a show-casing of Espinosa’s skills at the position. He’s far more valuable to teams as a career .240 shortstop with 20-homer power than he is putting up those same numbers at second base. However, as others have noted, trading Espinosa after the start he had in 2013 would be the definition of “selling low.” So I’m guessing he’s just filling in where needed in Syracuse for now. Once a short-stop, always a short-stop. After a horrible start in Syracuse, reports are that Espinosa is tearing it up as of late. Is he ready to come back up?
Another issue with this scenario is Zimmerman’s improved defense at third lately. Is it possible that all his throwing issues were lingering effects of his off-season shoulder surgery? You know, the surgery that was supposed take just a few weeks to recover from but whose recovery period is now well into the 2013 season? Despite Rendon’s reputed skills at the hot-corner, you don’t lightly move Gold Glove-winning fielders off their positions.
What if LaRoche was packaged with Espinosa and moved to a team that could provide the Nats back with a bigger bat who plays first base but who is making too much money for the team in question? I can’t think of someone like this off-hand, but the scenario would be the Nats providing payroll relief for some bad contract.