WASHINGTON, D.C. - Not long after Washington Post reporter Jorge Castillo wrote that sources said Danny Espinosa was skipping the Washington Nationals’ Winterfest event this weekend because he thought the trade that brought Adam Eaton from Chicago’s White Sox would, “likely cost him his job as the club’s starting shortstop,” Espinosa was traded to the Los Angeles Angels in return for right-handed pitchers Austin Adams and Kyle McGowin.
With Eaton in center, and Trea Turner set to return to short, Danny Espinosa was the odd man out after a .209/.306/.378, 15 double and 24 home run, 1.7 fWAR campaign playing every day at short in the nation’s capital. So did the 29-year-old infielder go and demand a trade after the deal with the Sox?
“I hadn’t talked to him once the deal went down with Eaton. Or his agent,” Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said on Sunday, when he spoke to reporters at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, where Winterfest was held.
Espinosa struck out too much, had power when he connected, showed off range and a strong arm at short. Rizzo was asked if the infielder was receptive to advice on how to work to improve on the obvious issues that persisted throughout his time in the Nationals’ organization, with the question reflecting the perception that Espinosa was stubborn and reluctant to change his approach.
“He is what he is,” Rizzo said. “He’s a good major league player that has power, speed — good defensive player — plays every day, played hard, gave 100% every time he went out there. I have no beef or problem with Danny Espinosa. Never have. And still consider him a good player that gave everything he had every time he played.”
“I think it was definitely good for Danny,” Dusty Baker told reporters when he spoke about the trade in his own press conference on Sunday afternoon.
“Because he deserves to play every day and I don’t know how it would have shook out here. And, man, any time you try to kind of go back home where he grew up watching.
“Mike [Rizzo] took care of him.”
The trade with the Angels didn’t just come together over a couple days after the Eaton trade, Rizzo explained, and was not as a result of a demand for a trade from Espinosa or his camp.
“We were working on it for a while, during the Winter Meetings and it came to fruition last night,” Rizzo said. “What it does, it improves [depth]. We reacquire some depth in the minor leagues, pitchers that can conceivably help us some time in 2017 and in the future. It allows Espi to have a chance to be an everyday player in his home town and it kind of frees up the perception of a kind of roadblock at shortstop on the bench with Espi’s presence.”
Could it have worked with Espinosa on the bench in a utility role?
“No, probably not,” Baker admitted.
“Because after playing every day... Who said he would have been backup? You know what I mean?
“Somebody would have been looking over their shoulder every day and like I said, he deserved to [play every day].”
“I’ve been with Espi a long time,” Rizzo said.
“I knew he would be frustrated with the bench role. But to upgrade ourselves in center field with that type of player [in Eaton], we felt it was important to get Trea to his natural position with shortstop.”
Baker said he didn’t see Turner, (who put up a put up a .342/.370/.567 line, 14 doubles, eight triples, 13 home runs and 33 stolen bases, finishing the year at 3.3 fWAR and 147 wRC+ over 73 games total and 324 plate appearances — when he spent most of his time in the majors playing center), enough at short to have his own opinion on what the 23-year-old infielder can offer defensively, but he’s heard positive reports.
“You’ve got to go on the words of our analysts and our people that had him in the minor leagues,” Baker explained.
Rizzo offered the following scouting report on Turner at short:
“He showed flashes of it when he played in the big leagues. We think he’s going to be a rangy shortstop. He’s got good hands, he’s got good feet. He’s got range, he’s got plenty of arm to play short and I think he’s going to be a good defensive shortstop with good offense.”
Turner said he was looking forward to returning to short, and knowing where he’ll be on a consistent basis.
“Just having a set routine I think will be a little bit nicer and calm the mind,” he said.
“Excited to have an opportunity to go back there.
“I think that’s where I’m most comfortable and it’s where I played the majority of my career and I look forward to trying to prove that I can play there at a high level and be consistent.”