Having acquired the middle infielder who can play second that he's been rumored to be after all winter last night in the trade with the Oakland A's that sent Tyler Clippard to the Athletics for Yunel Escobar, Nationals' General Manager Mike Rizzo talked to reporters this afternoon about what last night's deal meant for the status of incumbent shortstop Ian Desmond.
Desmond is headed for free agency after the 2015 season if he doesn't sign a long-term extension, and the 29-year-old shortstop has been the subject of several recent reports which said Washington was at least considering dealing him.
As reported by NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman, Rizzo said today that though any player could be traded if there is any offer made that is too good to refuse, "... a deal would have to be pretty elaborate not to have Ian Desmond on this team," in 2015.
"Ian Desmond, in my mind," Rizzo explained, "is the shortstop of the Washington Nationals, one of the leaders of the club and one of the best players in baseball."
This afternoon, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reported that he talked to a source described as an "[executive] who has spoken to [with the] Nationals" who said Washington could still deal Desmond, the veteran of five-plus major league seasons, who put up a .255/.313/.430 line with 26 doubles and 24 HRs in a +4.1 fWAR campaign in the nation's capital in 2014:
Exec who has spoken w/ #Nationals isn't buying spin they dealt for Yunel Escobar to play 2B. Says they're still trying to move Ian Desmond— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) January 15, 2015
Noting that as of today, "no deal is imminent" and citing FOX's bow-tied reporter Ken Rosenthal's recent report about a rumored three-team deal discussed by the Nationals, Mets and Tampa Bay Rays that would have landed New York a new shortstop, Martino writes that, "... the Mets continued to monitor Desmond, amid expectations that they and the Nats would talk again."
The acquisition of Escobar from the A's, after the Athletics acquired him from the Rays, gives the Nationals, "a viable option at short, if they trade Desmond," Martino reasons.
Rizzo said today that the acquisition of Escobar gives the Nats an upgrade at second base for 2015 and some options down the road since the 32-year-old Escobar is under contract for two years (at $12M) or maybe three if his $7M club option is exercised.
Danny Espinosa, the previous frontrunner for the job at second, moves "to a vital bench role" Rizzo said, as the Nationals' utility infielder and backup shortstop.
NOTE: MLB Network Radio host Jim Duquette and the @MLBNetworkRadio Twitter account stirred up a few minutes of controversy today and no doubt forced some ambitious writers to course-correct mid-story.
As Duquette was quoted on Twitter at first, it seemed like yet another big trade was coming:
Jim Duquette: "The Nationals are a lot closer to moving Ian Desmond to the Mets than you think"— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) January 15, 2015
Duquette then corrected the record, however, clarifying that he said the Nats "were" closer to dealing Desmond to the Mets "than you think":
Jim Duquette clarifies: "They WERE a lot closer to moving Ian Desmond to the Mets than you think"— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) January 15, 2015