Danny Espinosa Rumors
A number of notable clubs entered Spring Training looking for clear answers at second base, and other teams could face looming questions at the position. Here's a roundup of items about the keystone...
- Multiple talent evaluators tell ESPN's Jim Bowden that Alexander Guerrero needs a lot of time at Triple-A in order to both learn second base and simply to regain his form after not playing last season. In the Insider-only piece, Bowden looks at internal and external second base answers the Dodgers could explore to solidify themselves at the position.
- Early word on Guerrero hasn't been too positive, as one evaluator tells ESPN's Buster Olney (another Insider-only piece) that the Dodgers "could get him through outright waivers right now if they need a roster spot." Olney speculates that the Nationals could generate some interest in Danny Espinosa given the number of teams (including the Dodgers and Yankees) looking for second base help, though Washington wouldn't want to accept a sell-low offer for Espinosa given his poor 2013 season.
- The Royals are lacking in middle infield depth behind Omar Infante and Alcides Escobar, as Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star notes may not have the 25-man roster space for a backup infielder. Since Ned Yost plans to carry 12 pitchers, that leaves only four bench spots for Justin Maxwell, Jarrod Dyson, Danny Valencia and the backup catcher. Christian Colon, Pedro Ciriaco and Johnny Giavotella are currently fighting for a roster spot in camp and the team will have Valencia and Mike Moustakas work out at second in case they need to be emergency options. “It’s not ideal not to have a backup middle infielder on the team,” GM Dayton Moore said. “However, I do anticipate Infante and Escobar in the lineup most days.”
- Marco Scutaro is only beginning to take grounders and has yet to swing a bat, CSNBayArea.com's Andrew Baggarly reports. The veteran infielder is purposely taking a slow start to Spring Training in order to keep himself healthy and free of hip problems, and Giants GM Brian Sabean admits that the team probably should've shut Scutaro down last year when he was battling multiple nagging injuries. Despite Scutaro's issues, Sabean is confident he'll be ready for Opening Day though he only said "we'll see" when asked if he was comfortable with the team's second base depth.
Here are a few notes out of the National League East:
- Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy says that he would be open to extension talk, but that none have taken place to date, reports MLB.com's Anthony DiComo. Explaining that he would leave his contract situation to his agent, Murphy said that he already feels lucky for his situation. "What is comfort? Is it money?" asked Murphy. "I've made an ungodly amount of money. That's the only way to describe it. ... You see an organization heading in the direction that we're heading, it's an exciting time. So you always want to be a part of that. However that looks -- one-year deals or whatever that looks like -- other than playing well, that is a little bit out of my control as well. But I do want to be a part of the solution."
- The Braves' extension strategy has drawn plenty of recent attention, and the presence of senior advisor John Hart -- the former Indians GM who authored the advent of the extension era decades ago -- surely played a role. Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus recently engaged Hart in a fascinating interview on the topic of extensions. Hart continued to discuss the moves of his current club with MLB.com's Mark Bowman, focusing in particular on the situation of Jason Heyward, whose two-year deal did not buy out any free agent campaigns. "I never did deals with guys who were arbitration eligible unless I got something back," said Hart. "I didn't want to just take a guy through his arbitration years. But I think in the case of Heyward, it was a phenomenal strategy, and the message was clearly delivered that they really like this guy and they want to keep this guy. Nobody knows where his ceiling is, it hasn't been defined yet because he has had a lot of injuries coming along."
- The Nationals chose to give second baseman Danny Espinosa a raise to $540K (during time spent on the MLB roster) in spite of his tough 2013, reports Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Though Espinosa had been on track to qualify for arbitration this year, his demotion (and lack of a September call-up) left him short. That bought the team an extra year of control and another season at just above the league minimum rate. The 26-year-old has drawn significant trade interest from teams looking for a cheap opportunity to return him to form, but the Nationals appear likely to use him as a bench piece and keep his upside in house.
FEBRUARY 6: At least twelve teams have inquired with the Nationals about Espinosa's availability, reports MLB.com's Bill Ladson. However, the team remains unlikely at present to deal Espinosa, Ladson says.
Though Anthony Rendon has the inside track at the starting gig at second, Espinosa will have a shot at taking his job back. Alternative outcomes include Espinosa making the club as a reserve or starting out in Triple-A on optional assignment. But Espinosa represents important middle infield depth and still has tantalizing upside at age 26, leaving the Nats uninterested in selling low.
DECEMBER 10: The Nats are balking at moving Espinosa despite interest from the Yankees, among other clubs, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
DECEMBER 9, 6:29pm: One Nationals executive told Kilgore that the Nats aren't shopping Espinosa. Beyond that, GM Mike Rizzo plainly stated that he expects Espinosa to be his team's utility infielder in 2014, noting that despite a lack of experience at the hot corner, Espinosa has the tools to play third base. Kilgore writes that Espinosa has a big proponent in Rizzo, and the Nationals are determined not to sell low on the switch-hitter.
4:25pm: The Nationals are shopping Danny Espinosa in trade talks, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports (via Twitter). Passan adds that if the Nats are unable to find a deal they like for Espinosa, the infielder could fill the utility role vacated by Steve Lombardozzi.
After a couple solid seasons in Washington, Espinosa saw his production fall off a cliff in 2013 due in part to injuries. In 2011 and 2012, he was an everyday player for the Nats, hitting 38 homers with a .727 OPS in over 1300 plate appearances.
GM Mike Rizzo told reporters today, including Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com (Twitter link), that the Nats will be "open-minded" and won't be afraid to make a trade. However, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post says (via Twitter) that he'd be surprised if the team moves Espinosa, having already rebuffed teams like the Rays and Cardinals, who have tried to buy low.
- Homer Bailey was cautious in his remarks about signing a multi-year contract with the Reds, according to MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. "There is [interest], but it has to be something that works out for both ends," said Bailey. "That's kind of tough to do. You see a lot of the signings that are going on, so, of course, it's going to raise eyebrows on my behalf. Obviously, with a mid-market team, it's tougher for them, also. We're just going to have to see how everything goes." Bailey, who is represented by Excel Sports Management (the agency which negotiated lucrative long-term deals for Clayton Kershaw and Masahiro Tanaka this offseason), is arbitration eligible asking for $11.6MM while the Reds countered with $8.7MM.
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty says he is not interested in signing free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz (#17 on MLBTR's 2014 Top 50 Free Agents list) because he is tied to draft pick compensation, reports Sheldon.
- Danny Espinosa has been told by manager Matt Williams and GM Mike Rizzo he will be given the opportunity to compete with Anthony Rendon to be the Nationals' starting second baseman, writes Chase Hughes of Nats Insider. "That’s all I can ask for," said Espinosa. "I’ve never asked for anything to be handed to me. If I can get a fair opportunity to win my job back, I feel like I can do it." Espinosa struggled in 2013, due in part to injuries, batting .158/.193/.272 in 167 plate appearances before being demoted to Triple-A. The 26-year-old's name has popped up in trade rumors this winter with the Yankees, among other clubs, showing interest.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. needs to decide when the team can realistically contend next and then set them up do so because going all in while simultaneously investing in the future only offsets each other, opines philly.com's Justin Klugh.
Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com writes that last night's loss was "a kick in the gut" for the Nationals because it came after their most reliable reliever, Tyler Clippard, blew a rare lead. As Kolko notes, manager Davey Johnson has long said that he feels 90 wins will get the team to the postseason, but the Nats will need to finish 21-4 to reach that mark. Here's more out of the nation's capitol...
- Danny Espinosa should be among the team's September callups, argues Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. The Nats opted not to bring Espinosa to the big leagues again this season, but Kilgore opines that he'd be a valuable defensive replacement and the expanded rosters would allow them to carry Espinosa's glove without exposing the weak bat he's shown this season. Kilgore adds that keeping Espinosa off the Major League roster likely prevents him from becoming arbitration-eligible as a Super Two player, but the $1MM or so in financial savings isn't a good reason to keep him off the roster. Recent reports have indicated that the Nationals are looking to trade the switch-hitting middle infielder.
- Unbeknownst to Johnson, Bryce Harper has been receiving treatment for a hip injury recently, the manager told reporters (including Amanda Comak of the Washington Times). Johnson said that he is "disturbed" by the fact that he was not informed of the issue by Harper or the medical staff, but he plans to continue playing Harper as long as the injury doesn't worsen.
- For those who missed it, MLBTR reported last night that right-hander Mark Lowe has opted out of his minor league contract with Washington and is now a free agent.
SATURDAY, 3:48pm: The Nationals have informed Espinosa that he will not receive a September call-up, reports the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore. Assuming that holds true, Kilgore notes, Espinosa will likely not be arbitration-eligible next season. Instead, he will earn league minimum and cede an additional year of team control.
Espinosa had 2.033 years of service time coming into the season, and appears to have logged 79 days this year before he was optioned on June 19th. If he accrues no more service time, then, Espinosa will obviously fall short of three years of service. Neither will he have enough service for Super Two status, and would not qualify anyway because he did not stay on the active roster for the requisite 86 days this season.
While a late-season renaissance would have been even better, these service considerations certainly increase Espinosa's trade value. An acquiring team would have ample, low-cost flexibility to allow Espinosa -- who still has options -- to try and regain his form. And that team would receive additional upside if Espinosa regains his once-promising career arc. Those same factors, of course, increase his value to the Nats as well. Indeed, Kilgore notes that the organization still has not lowered its asking price on Espinosa and seems disinclined to sell him at a discount.
WEDNESDAY, 12:10pm: The Nationals are in the process of deciding whether or not they will include struggling infielder Danny Espinosa in this year's crop of September call-ups, and MLB.com's Bill Ladson reports that the team is looking to trade the 26-year-old.
Ladson's source said he doesn't anticipate that Espinosa will play a Major League game this season and the Nationals' efforts to trade him have been stifled by the switch-hitter's poor performance since being demoted to Triple-A Syracuse. Espinosa played through a fractured wrist for a month this season and batted just .158/.193/.272 in 167 plate appearances. Since his demotion, he's hitting just .208/.271/.283 in 292 plate appearances.
Espinosa's agent, Scott Boras, said that his client has dealt with a lingering thumb injury for several weeks at Syracuse. It's also worth noting that he played through a torn rotator cuff in 2012, which could obviously still have a lingering effect on his production at the plate. Boras told reporters that other teams do have interest in Espinosa:
"Every park that I go into will ask me about Danny. They want to know what he is doing. So the guy has real value."
Interested teams undoubtedly look at Espinosa's 20-homer power and 20-steal speed as well as his plus defense at second base and shortstop. However, those positives also come with the injury concerns and a long-standing problem with strikeouts; Espinosa has whiffed in 27.1 percent of his career plate appearances and has a whopping 96 strikeouts at Syracuse this season after leading the NL with 189 punchouts in 2012.
Espinosa hit .242/.319/.408 with 38 homers and 37 steals as a regular for the Nats from 2011-12, so trading him at this point would unquestionably be selling with his value at an all-time low. However, this is the second time there have been reports regarding a potential trade of Espinosa, as rival evaluators speculated back in June that playing him at shortstop at Triple-A was an attempt to showcase him as a trade chip. Espinosa has played 32 games at shortstop and 39 at second base since his demotion.
The Nationals have already made one minor acquisition this summer by landing Scott Hairston from the Cubs, but they're likely not done yet. Manager Davey Johnson said earlier this week he'd like another bench bat, and reports said the Nats could be in the market for rotation upgrades. Here's more on the second-place Nationals, who trail Atlanta by six games in the NL East...
- Scott Boras wants to talk with general manager Mike Rizzo regarding the future of his client, Danny Espinosa, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Espinosa, currently in Triple-A to refine his swing mechanics, is hitting .400/.451/.667 over his past dozen games. There's no immediate spot open for Espinosa, however, given the strong play of Anthony Rendon. Boras plans to discuss the service time being missed by Espinosa with Rizzo, but wouldn't take the bait when asked by Kilgore if he was implying that a trade was the best outcome for his client.
- Kilgore also writes that Ian Desmond received a ringing (and unprompted) endorsement from fellow shortstop Troy Tulowitzki over this week's All-Star break. Tulo called Desmond "one of the best shortstops in the game" before opining that the Nationals should give him an extension. Kilgore goes on to note that Desmond, who is controlled through the 2015 season, has the rare chance to become an elite shortstop who hits the market in the midst of his prime. As it stands, he's set to be a free agent shortly after he turns 30.
The Phillies aren't considered to have a particularly deep farm system but one upcoming gem could exist in the form of 20-year-old third baseman Maikel Franco. A scout tells CBS Sports' Danny Knobler (Twitter link) that Franco is the "best impact bat I've seen in minors this year." Franco posted a .259/.322/.395 line over his first three pro seasons but delivered a .925 OPS in 289 PA at High-A ball this year and already has two homers in four games since being promoted to Double-A. Baseball America ranked Franco as the Phillies' eighth-best prospect before the season, saying "he has a ceiling of a power-hitting corner infielder, but he'll have to continue to make offensive adjustments, especially in recognizing offspeed stuff."
Here's the latest from around the division...
- Danny Espinosa played two Triple-A games at shortstop this weekend, leading a few rival evaluators to tell Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post that it seems as if the Nationals could be showcasing Espinosa's shortstop ability for a possible trade. Kilgore isn't sure, since the Nats need Espinosa for infield depth and "trading Espinosa now would be the epitome of selling low." Espinosa has just a .465 OPS though 167 PA and has battled both a torn rotator cuff and a fractured wrist this season.
- The Mets offered Collin Cowgill to the Angels in exchange for right-hander Matt Shoemaker but the Halos weren't interested, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports (Twitter link). Cowgill was designated for assignment last week and the Mets are known to be exploring trades for the outfielder. Shoemaker, 26, has a 4.49 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and 4.89 K/BB ratio in 16 starts at Triple-A Salt Lake City this season.
- As part of a reader mailbag, MLB.com's Anthony DiComo opines that a long-term extension for Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy doesn't seem like "a realistic expectation at this point." This could open the door for prospect Wilmer Flores, who currently has an .853 OPS in his first Triple-A season. Murphy will be arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and is controlled through the 2015 season.
- In NL East news from earlier today, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reported that the Phillies had outrighted Michael Martinez to Triple-A, we heard some Ricky Nolasco rumors, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro told CBS Sports' Jon Heyman that he is putting a high price tag on his star pitchers and The New York Daily News' Andy Martino shared a few items about the Marlins, Mets and Nationals.
We heard overnight that the Rays and Nationals were exploring the possibility of a trade that would send Danny Espinosa to Tampa. While multiple reporters have suggested those talks haven't gained much momentum, Espinosa remains a trade candidate. Here are the latest rumblings related to the Nats infielder:
- At least one team besides the Rays called the Nats about Espinosa, tweets Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, who adds that any talks are being initiated by other teams.
- The Nationals are more willing to trade Mike Morse than Espinosa, with GM Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson still steadfast supporters of Espinosa, writes Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com.
- Many members of the Nats organization are reluctant to trade Espinosa, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. "He will figure it out," one source told Rosenthal. "[Steve] Lombardozzi is a good player, but he’s not Espinosa."
- The Nationals haven't ruled out the possibility of moving Anthony Rendon to second base if they decide to trade Espinosa, tweets MLB.com's Bill Ladson.
7:33am: There is currently no traction in trade discussions between the two sides, tweets Olney.
7:24am: Olney's colleague, Jayson Stark, reports that a source familiar with the talks says a trade sending Espinosa and Morse to Tampa Bay is unlikely despite the logical fit (Twitter link).
6:41am: ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that Rizzo is aiming high in his talks with the Rays about their pitchers.
12:44am: The Rays are nearing a one-year deal with James Loney, but the team is also discussing the possiblity of a trade with the Nationals that would involve starting pitching for Danny Espinosa and Michael Morse, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio (Twitter link).
Morse would represent a major offensive upgrade from Carlos Pena at first base, or he could slot into left field with Desmond Jennings taking over B.J. Upton's old position of center field. Espinosa could help the Rays at either middle infield position, where they've had a bit of a carousel in recent years.
Both Jeremy Hellickson and James Shields have been mentioned frequently as potential trade chips for Rays GM Andrew Friedman. It's also been reported that David Price could be had for the right offer, though the asking price (no pun intended) there would undoubtedly be sky-high.
The Nationals have some infield flexibility given the presence of Steve Lombardozzi, and they could handle the loss of Morse's bat if general manager Mike Rizzo is able secure a new contract with Adam LaRoche.