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Roster review: Danny Espinosa

Nov 18, 2013, 1:56 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Age on Opening Day 2014: 26

How acquired: Draft (3rd round), June 2008

MLB service time: 2 years, 113 days

2013 salary+bonuses: $526,250

Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2014, free agent in 2017

2013 Stats: 44 G, 167 PA, 158 AB, 11 R, 25 H, 9 2B, 3 HR, 12 RBI, SB, 4 BB, 47 SO, .158 BA, .465 OPS, 27 OPS+, -0.6 WAR

2013 analysis: Danny Espinosa’s year got off on the wrong foot before it even began. We first saw Danny in the offseason at NatsFest in January, when he revealed a tear was discovered in the rotator cuff in his left shoulder. And instead of undergoing surgery – a procedure that would have sidelined him for about a month of the regular season – he opted to play through it and hope for the best. The result, whether it was directly tied to his injury or not, was a disaster as Espinosa barely hit about .150 and earned a demotion to Triple-A.

Espinosa also dealt with a broken right wrist, which certainly didn’t help matters. All in all, 2013 was a tough year for the 26-year-old. He wasn’t good at Syracuse in the 75 games he played there and now has questions about his major league future. Would Espinosa’s year have been different if he had the surgery? We’ll never know. It doesn’t look like the Nats plan to have it fixed this offseason, either.

2014 outlook: Espinosa doesn’t fit in the Nationals plans moving forward, that much is obvious despite Mike Rizzo and former manager Davey Johnson’s public comments about him. The Nationals’ ideal solution for Espinosa would be to trade him, hoping a team banks on his two seasons of 17-plus homers and stolen bases. The problem, however, is finding a suitor.

If Espinosa played well in the minors, maybe he would have some value. But now it’s almost pointless to trade him considering the return likely wouldn’t be much at all. Espinosa is a good locker room guy, he works and plays hard, and he’s proven his potential at second base. There’s really no urgency to move him. The Nats will probably start him back at Syracuse and hope he opens the season playing well. Then they will have more options to either trade him or bring him back up to Washington to contribute like he did in 2011 and 2012.

  1. Doc - Nov 18, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    This is like the Danny Espinosa Mystery Series.

    Either he’s injured or he’s not. Either can fix what he does in the batters’ box or he can’t. Either he has an attitude problem or he doesn’t. Either he’s a MLB talent or he’s not a MLB talent.

    I’m looking forward to the end of the movie!!!!!!

  2. sjm308 - Nov 18, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    I don’t have high hopes for Espinosa but I do think he is worth a look as our bench infielder if, & it’s a huge if, he shows something the first month in AAA. I don’t care if he hits .500 in spring training, he played well in Fla. last year & look what that did. He is a superior defender, can play multiple positions and has power. I also do not think he is an attitude problem and was glad to see Mark mention that he is a good club house guy with an excellent work ethic. I am hopeful this works out but won’t be jumping off a cliff if it doesn’t.

    Go Nats!

  3. tcostant - Nov 18, 2013 at 2:52 PM

    Bold prediction: The will trade Lombo and Espinosa will fill the utility role.

    • Doc - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:14 PM

      Good prediction, tconstant; particularly, if Espi has a good spring.

      Don’t forget about Zach Walters in the utility mix. He’ll have to show some consistency in the field, though.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:19 PM

      espinosa will start ASG for Nationals.

      • unterp - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:37 PM

        Faraz Shaikh,

        That would be wonderful. Also, I just bought shares of stock, IPO, from the Nationals of the Brooklyn Bridge…

  4. blovy8 - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    Lombo could have some value to a cost conscious club because his numbers at 2nd have been pretty good, but I think the easier move is to try to trade Tyler Moore. There are going to be clubs who look at those two minor league years and the homers per AB in 2012 and be ok with giving him regular at-bats for 500K. I could see getting a little something from the Rockies since they don’t have a clear successor to Helton at 1st and Moore’s power would play there. It makes it easier to acquire someone they can put on the 40-man roster, if they go ahead and dump one of the bench players for even a C prospect who’s in high A who doesn’t have to be protected yet. Rizzo is pretty good at identifying those players.

  5. blovy8 - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    Espinosa’s numbers were abysmal last year, but to a team at the rebuilding level of the Marlins, Astros, Twins, White Sox, etc. what would they have to lose? At worst, he’s an excellent defender for whatever young guys they have pitching.

    OTOH, maybe if we tempered our expectations of all-star quality from a guy who’s going to strike out about as often as he manages to put a ball into play, and settle for him performing at the level of say, Nick Punto, it would make it easier to see him as a utility infielder who will have the pressure off him to be a regular force in the lineup, and who could fill a role coming up from AAA to help when someone goes down.

  6. Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    Was it spring of 2013 or 2012 when Espinosa “explained” his problems hitting by blaming the batting eye in Viera?

  7. Hiram Hover - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    Any update on why he hasn’t gotten the shoulder surgery at some pt in the last year, and apparently has no plans to do so?

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think it’s a high risk surgery. I understand there are strengthening routines that can be done to cope with it in the short term. But it will have to be addressed at some point, and in the meantime, as he adjusts to it, there’s a good chance he learns (even more) bad habits that he’ll have to unlearn later.

    I don’t see how this is good for him or the team.

    • Section 222 - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:54 PM

      Not sure if you saw this piece by Wagner at NJ about Espi and his shoulder. It contains some possible answers to your questions. One thing to remember is that Espi’s injury is not to his throwing shoulder.

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/nationals-journal/wp/2013/11/14/on-danny-espinosas-torn-rotator-cuff/

      • Hiram Hover - Nov 18, 2013 at 4:16 PM

        Thanks – I did see that, but I didn’t really see an answer–just that they thought there were other ways to manage it during this season.

        My concern with Danny–I think everyone’s–is his hitting, not his throwing and fielding.

        As a switch hitter, he spends most of his time batting lefty, meaning the injury is to his back shoulder in the box. I don’t know enough to discuss the relative effects of an injury to the front vs the back shoulder, but neither seems ideal for a batter. (Zim had a different kind of shoulder injury, but that was to his back shoulder as a batter as well).

  8. blovy8 - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    Also, to address Mark’s point, I think Espy will have a hard time proving much next year except that he might hit better in AAA than the big leagues. He got tagged a bit with the attitude thing, but it can work in the Nats’ favor if someone believes a fresh start for him can work. He already has a pretty good amount of ML at-bats. The further away the positive numbers are, the less the Nats could ask for, and at least right now, he’s shown he’s durable, and played through injuries. He hasn’t really cooperated with the path they want him to take, a change of scenery could be better than beating his head against the Syracuse clubhouse wall.

    There’s a point where the Nats have to think playing Kobernus and Walters every day to in the middle infield to get them reps to hopefully improve their defense would be the better option.

  9. Eugene in Oregon - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:57 PM

    When February rolls around, I will be very interested to learn how Danny Espinosa spent his winter. Will it have been purely about healing and recuperating? Or will he spend the last four to six weeks at the super-duper high-tech latest-scientific-training-methods facility that Scott Boras (still his agent, right?) reportedly maintains for his clients (and, I guess, a few prospective clients)? Or will it have been something else? If that’s already been reported, I missed it.

    Recalling my critical comments during the first half of the season, I want to be clear that I don’t hate Mr. Espinosa. I understand that players downplay (or even hide) injuries. I understand they want to be on the field to play themselves out of a slump. I don’t blame Mr. Espinosa for doing what all players do. But I absolutely hated the fact that the team (whether it was the manager or the GM) kept sending him out there game after game, even weeks after it became clear that he was no longer able to perform at the MLB level.

    I would love to see him return as a productive middle infielder, either to help the Nats himself or to serve as a significant piece of a productive trade. He can contribute either way, but only if his offseason leads to a return to MLB form.

    • derwink - Nov 18, 2013 at 7:07 PM

      But I absolutely hated the fact that the team (whether it was the manager or the GM) kept sending him out there game after game, even weeks after it became clear that he was no longer able to perform at the MLB level.

      +1

  10. David Proctor - Nov 18, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    Tim Hudson just signed a 2 year-23.5 million dollar deal with the Giants. Skip Schumaker signed with the Reds. Dominoes are starting to fall.

    • David Proctor - Nov 18, 2013 at 4:38 PM

      And Ruiz back with the Phillies for THREE years. He’s 35.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 18, 2013 at 5:33 PM

        Yep. Giants are smart. Huddy has more in him although that’s an overpay.

  11. knoxvillenat - Nov 18, 2013 at 4:37 PM

    So I’m curious as to where you see Schumaker fitting in with the Reds? Could this lead to the rumored trade of Brandon Phillips?

  12. David Proctor - Nov 18, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    Matt Williams recently spent time at Jayson Werth’s house. I guess he’s getting to know the team

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 18, 2013 at 5:36 PM

      The clubhouse starts at Werths door. Williams is obviously smart. He did it quicker than I gave him credit for. I said that was Step #1. Very happy to hear.

      Rizzo better get on his Step #1 as the Hot Stove s piping hot for the mid level players.

      • Section 222 - Nov 19, 2013 at 2:44 PM

        Replying here so you’ll see it. I found your March 29, 2012 comment about Espi . It’s in this post, and you weren’t yet a Ghost!:
        http://natsinsider.com/2012/03/29/nats-ss-vs-braves-32912/

        Also, some things never change — our favorite relative of Phil Wood was picking fights even then, calling those who were concerned about Espi’s K rate “haters”. Other things really chance — there was speculation about Flores doing PH duty because he is such a dangerous power hitter. If only!

  13. jd - Nov 18, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    Hudson is a good signing. Not top of the rotation any more but still very dependable.

    The Ruiz signing is another example of how Amaro still thinks he has a contending club.

  14. Joe Seamhead - Nov 18, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    I am not a fan of Amaro but the Phillies have no ML caliber catcher option to fill Ruiz’ shoes. That team is in trouble for a long time.

  15. Theophilus T.S. - Nov 18, 2013 at 6:56 PM

    Schumacher knocks one off my wishlist. I just wonder if (A) Rizzo really doesn’t like these guys (e.g., DeJesus) who make sense to me or (B) is slavishly devoted to a slo-cooker negotiating style that results in good possibilities sliding off the table before Rizzo’s interest even reaches room temperature.

    • David Proctor - Nov 18, 2013 at 7:14 PM

      Schumaker isn’t even any good. He grades out negatively defensively at every position he plays and he’s a mediocre at best hitter. There are better options out there. Yes, even for the bench.

  16. Theophilus T.S. - Nov 18, 2013 at 6:59 PM

    $23.5 MM over two for Hudson is outrageous. The Nats will be lucky if $9MM buys anyone w/ a pulse.

    • Hiram Hover - Nov 18, 2013 at 8:48 PM

      Not sure where Dan Haren falls on the pulse-pulseless scale, but it’s scary that the Giants said they inquired on him, but backed off because he seemed a much hotter commodity than Hudson.

  17. David Proctor - Nov 18, 2013 at 8:02 PM

    Interesting article by Ken Rosenthal talking about extensions for Zimmermann and Desmond. He says a good comparison for Desmond is Jose Reyes, who got 6/$106M. He says Zimmermann could compare to the $5/80 Verlander got. Not because Zimmermann is better than Verlander but because Zim is further along in the pay structure and salaries are inflated now. So breaking it down annually, that would be $17.6M for Desmond per year and $16M for Zimmermann. That’s $33.6 per year for them both.

    However, they’re expected to make $17.5 in arbitration this season. So it’s basically $16.1M in new money this season to lock them up. It would be a little bit less in new money since both would be expected to get arbitration raises. And then obviously it’s the full $33.6 new money for 2016 and beyond.

    • David Proctor - Nov 18, 2013 at 8:10 PM

      That would put the payroll at about $140M this season—and that’s without any additions.

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