You know spring training is coming close when Bill Ladson does two mailboxes in two weeks. Here’s 1/9/14′s version.
As always, I write my response here before reading his and edit questions for clarity as needed.
A: I think the talk is focused on Danny Espinosa since, right now he seems like the best option thanks to the trade of Steve Lombardozzi and the lack of any other real competitors. Zach Walters hit 30 homers in AAA … but by some accounts is a very poor defender. I can’t find his minor league fielding stats but others have pointed out that he made 30 errors last year in AAA. Jeff Kobernus has been playing outfield lately; he played 2nd in college and earlier in his pro career but can he even play short stop? New signees Jamey Carroll and Mike Fontenot can both play 2nd and SS … but aren’t exactly MLB quality guys any longer; Fontenot spent the entire year in AAA in 2013 and Carroll is a guy on a minor league contract nearing 40 who hit for a 40-something OPS+ in 2013.
Ask yourself; what do you ideally want out of a backup infielder? They have to be a plus defender (apparently knocking out Walters), they have to be able to play 2nd and SS (knocking out Kobernus). Espinosa is a fantastic defender, a short stop in college with a rocket arm who many once upon a time thought was a better short stop than Ian Desmond. Right now, I want to see if Espinosa can re-gain his former self and use everyone else in this discussion as a fallback plan.
Trade Espinosa? Can you define the term “selling low?” That’s the last thing the organization wants to do right now. That being said, Ladson continues to be insistent that Espinosa will be traded before opening day. His prediction for the opening day backup infielder is “lets see what happens in spring training.” Strong stance.
Q: Is Bill Bray still with the Nationals? If I remember, he had health issues. Any chance he could be in the mix for a lefty slot in the bullpen?
A: Bill Bray is a Minor League Free Agent, and according to Baseball America is still unsigned. Even if he did re-sign with Washington, it’d be on a minor league deal, meaning he’d have to be added to the 40-man to be in the mix for the loogy. That already puts him behind several guys; Jerry Blevins and Xavier Cedeno for sure, and likely Sammy Solis if the first two guys failed. Bray also has to show he’s healthy, which he hasn’t really done in quite a while now. I hate to say it, because i’ve got a soft-spot for him (he’s from Virginia Beach and i’m friends with his cousin), but he may be looking at retirement. Ladson says he’s not ready until May but wants to stay in the organization; lets hope they throw him a bone and give him a minor league deal.
Q: Are the Nats pursuing any other lefty relievers, or is Jerry Blevins all there is to it?
A: I’d guess the team is pursuing other lefties, but not actively. I’m sure there will be a couple of MLFA signings here and there to provide some competition in Viera. Ladson reminds us that they’re thinking about both Solis and Ross Detwiler as lefties out of the pen.
Q: Any word on F. P. Santangelo re-signing for the 2014 season?
A: No idea. I thought he was a fine broadcaster so I hope he comes back; didn’t realize there was a question. Ladsons says they’re both back for 2014, after which Santangelo’s contract expires.
Q: Tyler Moore is an enigma. He seems to have all the tools to be a regular .280 hitter with 20 homers. Why does he appear to only be in the Nats’ plans as a bench player?
A: Moore is an enigma; is he the power hitting slugger (one homer every 15.6 ABs) in 2012 who bashed his way to an .840 OPS or is the overmatched, strike-out-one-out-of-every-three times guy we saw in 2013? I’d hope he’s closer to the former than the latter, and thus can still be a servicable righty power bat off the bench. Why is he just a bench player? Because he’s not better than any of the guys ahead of him? I would have thought this was kind of obvious, looking at Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth and their accomplishments and status on this team. Ladson assumes Moore is a backup firstbaseman, I guess, but says Moore isn’t going to be platooning with Adam LaRoche either.
A: Likely? No. I think at least one (Desmond) gets done, and we may see the other guy (Zimmermann) get moved in a cost-containment move with the team thinking ahead to its rising minor league players and its need to pay both Harper and Strasburg sooner than later. Ladson sort of agrees.