Will it be Opening Day Trea? Opening Day Danny? Opening Day Drew? Will the Washington Nationals' rookie infielder Trea Turner start the season at short in the majors? Will veteran infielder Danny Espinosa get an opportunity to start at short now that Ian Desmond has left the nation's capital? Was Stephen Drew signed to serve as a bridge to the near-future when Turner takes over at short with Espinosa as the Nats' utility infielder?
Who's going to play up the middle with new second baseman Daniel Murphy, who signed a 3-year/$37.5M deal with the Nationals this winter?
After the Nationals signed Stephen Drew to a 1-year/$3M deal on December 15th, General Manager Mike Rizzo, who oversaw the shortstop's selection in the first round of the 2004 Draft in his role as the Arizona Diamondbacks' scouting director, talked about reuniting with the 32-year-old infielder, who started 94 games at second base for the New York Yankees in 2015, putting up a .201/.271/.381 line with 16 doubles and 17 home runs in 428 plate appearances.
Rizzo said he thought Drew could still play short in the majors though he hasn't started there on a regular basis in the last two seasons.
"Stephen Drew is capable of playing every day at both shortstop and second base," Rizzo told reporters, including CSN Mid-Atlantic's Chase Hughes:
"He’s capable of playing third base. He’s a great veteran player that’s very versatile. He swings the bat from the left side. I’ve got a track record and history with him. He’s a great kid. He’s loved by his teammates and a guy that should get a lot of at-bats for us at a multiple array of positions."
Turner put up a combined .322/.370/.458 line with 24 doubles, seven triples, eight home runs and 29 stolen bases in 116 games and 500 PAs between Double-A in the Padres and Nationals' systems and Triple-A with Washington's top minor league affiliate.
He debuted in the majors late last season, putting up a .225/.295/.325 line with a double and a home run in 44 PAs.
"Trea showed us since we acquired him and really since we had interest in him in the draft that he's a quality player," Rizzo told reporters this winter, "that he was a fast-track type of player when he was in the draft and we feel that he's come a long way and is going to be a really good player for us."
With Drew, Espinosa and now Murphy on the major league roster, however, will Turner start the season in the minors and come up when the Nationals are guaranteed another year of team control?
Rizzo said they'll all get a shot this Spring:
"We love competition. Trea is gonna come to spring training with the rest of the big leaguers and compete for a job at shortstop. We love the depth that we’ve created there. His talent level is extremely high and we’ve got extremely high hopes for him. We’re gonna develop him the way that he should be developed."
Espinosa told reporters this winter that he wanted the opportunity to return to short on an everyday basis after moving to second when he first came up and bouncing around the infield (and playing some outfield) last season.
"That's where home is for me," the 28-year-old, switch-hitting infielder said. "That's where I'm comfortable. That's what I grew up playing. The Nationals drafted me as a shortstop. I moved to second because Ian [Desmond] was there, but I'm very confident in my abilities to play shortstop and I'd like to get back there."
Espinosa, who struggled offensively (and with injuries) in 2013-14, with a combined .200/.255/.326 line, 23 doubles and 11 home runs in 531 PAs over that stretch, put up a .240/.311/.409 line with 21 doubles and 13 home runs in 118 games and 412 plate appearances in a sort-of bounce back 2015 campaign.
Is it Trea Turner Time in the nation's capital? Will Stephen Drew get a chance to start at short again at the start of the 2016 campaign? Will Danny Espinosa's glove earn him the job? Will Drew or Espinosa just start at short until Turner is called up? Let's start with Opening Day. Who opens the season at short for the Nationals in 2016? Vote below...