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Nationals' Second Base Search: Should the Nats consider acquiring Elvis Andrus if he's available?

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ESPN.com's David Schoenfield put the Washington Nationals on a list of five teams that could be possible trade partners for the Texas Rangers if they did decide to trade infielder Elvis Andrus this winter. Does the 26-year-old shortstop make sense for the Nats?

Greg Fiume

Veteran Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell wrote in a February 18, 2014 chat with WaPost readers that the "grapevine" said Washington Nationals' shortstop Ian Desmond had, at some point during discussions about a long-term deal, "... turned down a contract extension from the Nats for more than Adam Jones' deal in Baltimore ($85.5M/7 yrs)," which, "...may even have passed the $90-M level."

CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman wrote last March that his sources too told him Desmond turned down an offer which was, "... thought to be for up to seven years... but was said to have been for at least six years."

"'I don’t want to sign a deal that is so bad that a future shortstop gets screwed because I signed a terrible deal. I’m not going to be that guy.'" -Ian Desmond on rumored long-term deal to the WaPost's Adam Kilgore, March '14

"Two sources pegged the offer at $80 million to $90 million, at least," Heyman added.

Desmond ended up signing a 2-year/$17.5M deal which bought out his final two years of arbitration eligibility.

In discussing why Desmond might have turned down the rumored long-term deal, Heyman noted that, "the Rangers' Elvis Andrus, who had similar service time at the time of his deal, received a $120-million, eight-year deal that included a player opt-out clause," and, "Desmond has much more power and is a very good defender, though it's tough to top Andrus defensively."

While Desmond never discussed specifics of any long-term offers from the Nats, he did tell MLB.com Nats beat writer Bill Ladson that the two-year deal, "... benefited my family and it didn't affect future infielders in the arbitration process," which is something Desmond, who turned 29 in September, said was an important factor for him.

Desmond discussed his thinking openly when he spoke to The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore in a March 2014 article in which he discussed the rumored offers:

"'[T]here have been a lot of people that have come through this game that have sacrificed a lot for us, the players that are coming through now. I don’t want to sign a deal — and this isn’t to say they’ve offered me this — but I don’t want to sign a deal that is so bad that a future shortstop gets screwed because I signed a terrible deal. I’m not going to be that guy, that kink in the chain. I’m going to get a fair deal, or I’m just going to wait.'"

FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote in July his sources told him the, "...numbers might even have been higher," than even Boswell or Heyman's sources said, "... as high as seven years, $98 million, according to one source."

In the article, Rosenthal quoted "major league sources" who said the Nats were in the market for a young infielder since they lacked depth in the organization and wanted to prepare for a day in the not-too-distant future (post-2015) in which Desmond might walk and test the free agent market.

If the Nationals are indeed in the market for a young shortstop, as has been rumored again this winter, what about Andrus?

If the Nationals aren't going to be able to keep Desmond long-term, would they consider trading for the Rangers' shortstop and taking on the 8-year/$120M extension Texas signed the 26-year-old infielder to in 2013?

ESPN.com's David Schoenfield discussed the recent rumors about the Rangers' willingness to deal Andrus in an article this morning in which he listed the Nationals as one potential trade partner along with the New York Yankees, NY Mets, LA Dodgers and Atlanta Braves.

Why would Texas consider dealing Andrus? He had a down year offensively in 2014, Schoenfield notes, and slipped some defensively, but, "...the primary reason is that," they need pitching, and, "... middle infield is the one area of depth for the club."

Andrus, the ESPN columnist suggests, "is another second-base option, at least for 2015," for the Nationals, who are in need of a second baseman, and, "Ian Desmond is a free agent after the 2015 season, so Andrus would be insurance if the Nationals can't sign Desmond."

The Nats, he adds, have "back-end rotation depth" and "intriguing outfielders" like Steven Souza and Michael Taylor, who are currently blocked at the major league level.

Some problems with taking on Andrus and his expensive (but not ridiculously so, really) extension?

In 2012, before he signed the long-term extension, the then-24-year-old infielder put up a .286/.349/.378 line in 158 games and 711 plate appearancs over which he was worth +4.0 fWAR.

In 2013, Andrus finished at +2.8 fWAR with a .271/.328/.331 line in 156 games and 698 PAs.

Last season, Andrus put up a .263/.314/.333 line over 157 games and 685 PAs, in a +1.3 fWAR campaign, which was a career low in Fangraphs' WAR.

As ESPN.com's Schoenfield notes, Andrus also finished the season with, "...the worst defensive metrics of his career (-13 Defensive Runs Saved)."

Was it a down-year for a career +2.9 fWAR average player? Is that a good reason to deal for him now if he is, indeed, available?

Andrus is scheduled to make $15M in each of the first six years of the extension, which he can opt out of after the 2018 and 2019 seasons and he gets $14M in 2021-22.

There is also, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts, a full no-trade clause in Andrus' deal that kicks in if he's traded.

Should the Nationals at least "kick the tires" on Andrus if the Rangers are indeed considering trading him as the Yankees reportedly have?

Does the infielder make sense for Washington? What would Texas want in return?