Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters last month that after the trade for Adam Eaton moved Trea Turner to short, he was pretty sure that Danny Espinosa would not work in a part-time/bench role. Espinosa, he explained, would not be happy on the bench.
“I’ve been with Espi a long time, I knew he would be frustrated with the bench role,” he explained. “But to upgrade ourselves in center field with that type of player, we felt it was important to get Trea to his natural position with shortstop.”
Espinosa was dealt to the Los Angeles Angels in return for minor league right-handers Austin Adams and Kyle McGowin.
Rizzo said then that after dealing top prospects like Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning to Chicago to get Eaton from the White Sox, the Espinosa deal helped rebuild some depth.
“We’re always trying to create depth and it was no different in this trade,” he said.
“We have two young, controllable pitchers, both with plus fastballs and good arms and we add them to the list of depth that we already have.”
As for the middle infield depth? Rizzo said with Espinosa gone, the Nationals would have to rely on some of their younger players, or potentially add depth there.
“I think it will [lead to] a little bit more dependence on our younger players in the minor leagues, like a [Wilmer] Difo,” he said.
“[Difo is a] guy who has a good skill set, speed, switch hitter, good defense certainly at short and second, learning how to play third.
“So, I think that his role could increase in importance. We’re still early in the offseason and we’re going to think about the bench, we’ll discuss the bench so the bench could look different at Opening Day.”
Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker too talked up Difo’s versatility last season when he explained the decision to include the infielder on the postseason roster for the NLDS.
“He's a switch-hitter. He has speed. He's very good from the right side and also he can play all three infield positions,” Baker said.
With less than a month to go before Spring Training, the bench options have not changed. The good news?
One of the Nationals’ rumored targets, Stephen Drew, remains available.
When Drew’s agent, Scott Boras, spoke to reporters at the Winter Meetings, he said the 33-year-old infielder, who played for the Nationals on a one-year deal last season, was weighing his options while looking for an everyday gig. If he can’t find one?
“He’s just kind of evaluating the options of carrying out a multiple-position role and probably playing more than he did last year, or pursuing something more along the lines (of what he was for the Nationals this year),” Boras explained, as quoted in early December on MLBTradeRumors.com.
As of now, the bench options likely include Chris Heisey, who returned on a one-year deal, Clint Robinson, Jose Lobaton, Difo, Michael A. Taylor and Brian Goodwin.
Will Drew be back in the nation’s capital in 2017? Will the Nationals bolster the bench options as they look to add to the bullpen as well this winter?