Speaking to reporters Sunday, Nationals president/general manager Mike Rizzo acknowledged that now-traded middle infielder Danny Espinosa would have been “frustrated” as a bench player. The executive downplayed the notion that sending Espinosa to the Angels on Saturday had anything to do with the 29-year-old’s reported discontent with a diminished role, however. According to Rizzo, he didn’t speak with either Espinosa or his agent after the team acquired outfielder Adam Eaton on Wednesday, and he added that the Espinosa deal had been in the works for a while. “I have no beef or problem with Danny Espinosa. Never have,” said Rizzo. “And I still consider him a good player that gave everything he had” (all Twitter links via Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Chelsea Janes of the Post and Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com).
Here’s more on the reigning NL East champions:
- Trea Turner’s emergence as a rookie last season was one of the factors that ultimately made Espinosa expendable, but the up-and-coming star didn’t expect the veteran to go anywhere. “Little surprised, he was a big part of us last year,” Turner told Zuckerman. “But I think that’s direction we’re heading after Eaton trade.” Turner’s a natural shortstop, though he saw action there in just two of 75 games in 2016 because of Espinosa’s presence. The 23-year-old is now set to move back to his typical position next season after mostly working in center field (45 games) and at second base (28 games) in 2016. “I think that’s where I’m most comfortable,” Turner said regarding shortstop. “I look forward to proving that I can play there at a high level” (Twitter links).
- Washington is one of the teams in the race for the best pitcher remaining on the free agent market, closer Kenley Jansen, and Rizzo revealed Sunday that he and the longtime Dodger’s agent have stayed in touch throughout the offseason. Other options are under consideration, though, per Rizzo (Twitter link via Janes). Those options could perhaps include the White Sox’s David Robertson and the Rays’ Alex Colome – two closers whom the Nats have pursued via trade.
- Right-hander Stephen Strasburg slider/cutter was his second-most-used pitch in 2016 (he threw it 17.1 percent of the time), tweets Jamal Collier of MLB.com. However, Strasburg will rely less on the pitch going forward because he believes it put too much stress on his arm during an injury-shortened campaign, he said Sunday. Strasburg inked a seven-year, $175MM extension in May, but he subsequently landed on the disabled list multiple times – once because of elbow soreness in late August. He then returned from his elbow ailment for one start, a Sept. 7 outing in which tossed 2 1/3 innings, before missing the rest of the season with a flexor mass strain. Fortunately, Strasburg expects to be fine for 2017 (Twitter links via Janes and Zuckerman).