Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Interesting Trade Season rumor…


Could the Nats trade LaRoche? Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Could the Nats trade LaRoche? Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images

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.


Written by Todd Boss

July 16th, 2013 at 10:04 am

12 Responses to 'Interesting Trade Season rumor…'

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  1. Moving LaRoche at this time is a terrible idea. On his best day Espinosa could not supply the lefthanded power that Laroche does. LaRoche’s defense is a definate plus at a position that must adjust to all the other infield throws and woes.
    Espinosa has been better at the plate lately but not necessarily because of any great change in his swing. I agree that his highest and best could be as a great fielding power hitting shortstop.
    It would sevre the Nats better to trade for pitching help/depth for the stretch run to the playoffs. Detwiller is hurt and Haren is inconsistent at best. Why not package Espinosa and Erik Davis for a pitcher like Phil Hughes. They could enlarge the deal to also have Chamberlin if they throw in an outfielder like Corey Brown or Eury Peraz.


    16 Jul 13 at 11:29 am

  2. PS. I would rather have Bud Norris but I think the price tag might be too high in terms of the Nats young pitching.


    16 Jul 13 at 11:32 am

  3. My take on Espi at short was that they want him to be ready in case Ian goes down with injury, because let’s face it that would be a disaster of monumental proportions given that they have no other MLB-ready shortstops in the entire organization.

    For me it would all depend on the return for LaRoche. If it’s a blocked MLB-ready prospect (ala Wilson Ramos) who could help out almost immediately (hey, maybe a second baseman), I’d be willing to go for it. Of course, I have no idea who might have such a player available and needs LaRoche.

    Sens Fan – they aren’t going to get much in return for the likes of Brown, Perez and Davis (or Marrero for that matter), none of whom at this point look like they will ever be significant contributors at the next level. And as I said, Espinosa is more valuable to the Nats right now as a backup for Desmond than he likely would be in trade.


    16 Jul 13 at 12:05 pm

  4. I would trade Laroche ASAP. He may provide 1-2 wins at best for the rest of the season and that likely won’t be enough for the postseason. Th real issue is how do you improve for next year. He’s not part of the future, he seems to be aging with each passing day, and the only spot where we can improve our offense is 1st base since Zim and Werth are untradeable and Span still is valuable. This team needs a bat and can’t rely on the aging Werth, Zim, and Laroche to revert back to their past glory.


    16 Jul 13 at 12:07 pm

  5. Also on Morse, I am as angry as any Nats fan about how the organization bungled its player personnel moves this past offseason, but I am pretty much over the Morse trade. Given his injury riddled season, the advantage of keeping him instead of bringing back LaRoche has been reduced to merely the roster flexibility advatage of Morse being a free agent at the end of the year. It also helps that Rizzo lucked out getting Krol as a throw in on that deal as Cole’s continued up-and-down performance in the minors makes me wonder whether he will ever live up to his draft day hype.

    Also, here is an interesting thought that just came to me about Espinosa being called back up. Would he be able to control his ego enough to replace Lombardozzi as team’s primary backup infielder and not be a cancer in the clubhouse? Because if he is now even able to be 75% as productive at the plate as he was last year, he would be an improvement over Lombo, whose regression has been at least as disappointing (and damaging to the team) as Bernadina and Moore’s.


    16 Jul 13 at 12:25 pm

  6. I think you’re looking at a possible ALR trade as a “go for it” move. It wouldn’t be. It would be a white-flag move where we give up on this season and reload for next year. Which, frankly, I’m almost ready to do. If Espi keeps clubbing the ball for a few weeks, (which is a giant if) then we can think about how to either move him to a different defensive spot (not that I know which one) or trade him, ALR, Span, Haren, whatever.

    kevin r

    16 Jul 13 at 12:38 pm

  7. I like the concept of trading ALR for a bigger bat. I do not like the concept of trading ALR to make room for Danny, for the reasons expressed above.

    But let’s raise the ante: would you trade ALR for Pujols? I see three scenarios to respond:

    (a) LAA wants to remake the team, and it is primarily a salary dump, like TOR waiving Alex Rios a few years ago. WAS hopes Pujols becomes reinvigorated by returning to the NL. This is kind of the straight up deal.
    (b) LAA thinks Pujols still has value, and requires some prospects, like Boston got for AGon and others. Assume that we have to throw in Cole and Goodwin, too.
    (c) WAS will do it, but at a subsidized salary, making LAA eat $50m in total salary. Or said differently, if you fall into this camp, how much $$ would LAA have to eat for you to do the deal?

    Personally, I fall into (c). I’d do it with enough salary relief, maybe getting him down to $15m AAV for the remainder of the contract. Alternatively, we could trade Werth and ALR straight up for Albert. I’d actually get excited about that one, since I think Albert will be productive while we have Gio, Stras and Jordan, and we could find a corner OF for similar production to Werth much more cheaply.


    16 Jul 13 at 12:53 pm

  8. I favor the rumored proposal on paper, but it is a risky move to make in-season, given the optics of desperation and that it also involves so many key components at crucial positions. The team’s psyche could also be affected negatively, and Davey Johnson’s relationship with his players is based on chemistry, confidence and trust. He is loathed to upset that (re: his epic faith in Espinosa.) How will he be able to convince Ryan Zimmerman moving to 1st base now is a good decision and not a judgement of his defensive play at 3rd?

    Still, if LaRoche is on the market, then the Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and A’s are all contending teams in the AL who could use a sure-glove, RBI-driven lst baseman.

    John N.

    16 Jul 13 at 1:13 pm

  9. Norris: i read somewhere that Houston wanted “two good prospects” for him. Blech; he’s not worth that. I agree that price is too high.

    Todd Boss

    16 Jul 13 at 1:22 pm

  10. Bdrube: Espi as Desmond backup: great point. Of course I always maintain that a SS coming up can transition seamlessly between 2nd and SS on a day to day basis. Now, transitioning from SS to 3B can be a bit challenging.

    Who may be coming up as a 1B prospect? Nobody on the horizon. Maybe Matt Skole. But they’re working him elsewhere in the field (before he got hurt anyway). Past him you’re talking Chris Marrero, whose ship seems to have sailed.

    Todd Boss

    16 Jul 13 at 1:25 pm

  11. Espy as Lombo replacement: interesting thought. I have no opinion one way or the other on whether Espinosa could/would handle a bench role appropriately. We have no track record of Espinosa playing anywhere except SS/2B, wh ereast Lombardozzi can play OF positions as well. So there’s that.

    I think i wouldn’t mess with it; every team carries one weak-hitting spare middle infielder who isn’t expected to be a productive hitter as much as he’s expected to be the backup SS. Just looking at who has played that role for the Nats: Lombardozzi, Alex Cora, Jerry Hairston, Brian Bixler, Alberto Gonzalez, Willie Harris to some extent, Anderson Hernandez, Alex Cintron, etc. None of these guys was expected to lead the offense or anything. But you have to have a guy who can play SS at a moment’s notice.

    Todd Boss

    16 Jul 13 at 1:31 pm

  12. Acquiring Pujols. Wow. Would make us very righty-heavy at the plate. But it may also help the team with its abhorrent lefty pitching split.

    I honestly don’t have any Idea what i’d think about a deal like that. I think it would require some salary relief and a draining of the farm system as you suggest.

    I think the Nats would be the one providing salary relief in any attempt to trade Werth, frankly.

    Todd Boss

    16 Jul 13 at 1:34 pm

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