Those who are holding out hope that the Washington Nationals will add an everyday second baseman before Opening Day, saw some reasons for optimism on Sunday.
First, there was FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal's article on a deal that didn't go down in which he cited sources who said the Nats at least discussed dealing Ian Desmond to the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-team deal with the Mets that would have sent Desmond to New York and landed the Nationals Ben Zorbist and Yunel Escobar, though ESPN's Buster Olney has since said that the discussions involving Desmond going to the Mets were only "cursory in nature."
Before that report cropped up, however, Nationals' General Manager Mike Rizzo hinted that the defending NL East Champions weren't necessarily done building for the defense of their title.
"We're still working on a lot of possibilities," Rizzo told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden.
"And with the front office minds that we have here, there's a lot of creativity that goes into a lot of these decisions and we'll see where we end up."
As for the candidates for the second base job already in the Nats' organization, Rizzo said, "[Danny] Espinosa is one, [Dan] Uggla is two. We've got some young kids in the minor leagues that we feel very, very good about. This [Wilmer] Difo kid, who is a speed, power, defensive guy who was obviously only in A-ball last year, but a guy that turned a lot of heads this year and a guy that we're certainly going to count on in the future, but we'll see how far along he is when he comes to big league camp for the first time."
Bowden, after talking to Rizzo on Sunday, posted an article today in which he put Espinosa and Uggla on a list of the players who've benefited most from non-moves this winter.
The Nationals like Espinosa's defense and numbers vs right-handers, Bowden says, and Uggla was signed to a minor league deal, "as an insurance plan behind Espinosa."
Though Washington could still acquire a second baseman or get a third baseman and move the versatile Anthony Rendon to second, Bowden writes that right now it appears, "Espinosa will be given every shot to win the second-base job, with Uggla competing, as the team waits for its best second-base prospect, Wilmer Difo, to develop."
Rizzo talked at length about the decision to sign Uggla in the hopes that his decline was tied to the post-concussion issues which are now believed to have affected the veteran infielder over the last few seasons.
As Rizzo explained it, the Nationals think the issues Uggla's dealt with are similar to those Denard Span overcame after suffering from concussion issues during his time with the Minnesota Twins.
"We have access to a lot of great medical people here in Washington, D.C.," Rizzo explained. "Our medical director [Dr.] Wiemi Douoghui has very good contacts and when we acquired Denard Span a couple of years back he had the concussion syndrome that we're talking about and missed a lot of time with the Twins because of it."
"When we acquired him, we immediately flew him to some of our doctors in D.C. and New York City, and we did a really good job with taking care of all his symptoms and making sure that he was 100% healthy going into that Spring Training. And a lot of effort has been put forth with Danny Uggla. We feel that they are similar situations. Danny had this concussion-like syndrome for about a year and a half and it went unnoticed by him even for a long period of time and Danny this offseason had discussed it with a couple of fellow players and fellow coaches and felt that maybe seeing a specialist for that situation would help out his symptoms and we right now are in the process of, we just signed him and the holidays have just passed, so we're going to get him up here and put him through our protocol and his paces and see if there is any more concussion-type protocol and vision-type protocol that we can increase and help him out even further."
Second base isn't the only spot the Nationals' GM is thinking about either, as he told the MLB Network Radio hosts.
"We have a lot of good, live bullpen arms that are going to compete for bullpen roles," Rizzo said. "We need to come up with a better left-handed side of the bench to complement Nate McLouth and our switch-hitter in Jose Lobaton.
"So we've got a lot of work to do. We're a team that we feel good about ourselves, but we're certainly not a team without flaws and hickeys. And we're trying to smooth all of those things out before we get to Spring Training and as we all know the end-all and be-all isn't the report date and your roster is often changed even after the arrival of the players, so we're going to work diligently up to and through Opening Day, and try and give ourselves the best chance to win in 2015, but we also have to have a global view of beyond 2015 because we want to be relevant for the long-term."