On the heels of the Nationals’ acquisition of center fielder Adam Eaton, shortstop Danny Espinosa skipped the team’s annual Winterfest this weekend because he’s unhappy with his likely relegation to a bench role, a source told Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post. With Eaton in the field, 2016 center fielder Trea Turner is set to take over at short next year, leaving Espinosa without an everyday spot.
The Nats do value Espinosa, evidenced by their unwillingness to non-tender him, but general manager Mike Rizzo didn’t rule out trading the 29-year-old even before the club landed Eaton.
“I could see him as utility player. I could see him as a player you could utilize in a trade context to get another piece that you need,” Rizzo said last month.
If Washington does shop Espinosa, it shouldn’t have difficulty finding a taker, tweets Chelsea Janes of the Post. Espinosa is reasonably priced – he’s due an estimated $5.3MM in his final arbitration year – and has combined for 4.0 fWAR since 2015. The switch-hitter batted a modest .209/.306/.378 in 601 plate appearances last season, but he did club a career-high 24 home runs.
While right-handed pitchers have confounded Espinosa, who has slashed just .216/.294/.367 in 1,967 career PAs against them, he has been useful versus southpaws with a .257/.327/.454 line in 736 trips to the plate. Most of Espinosa’s value, though, has come in the middle infield, where he has totaled 35 Defensive Runs Saved and a 31.9 Ultimate Zone Rating.
By moving Espinosa, the Nats would likely turn to the 24-year-old Wilmer Difo as their primary reserve behind Turner and second baseman Daniel Murphy. They also haven’t closed the door on re-signing free agent Stephen Drew, as FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweeted earlier this week.