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Where does Escobar fit into 2016 infield?

Oct 1, 2015, 6:39 PM EDT

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ATLANTA — Yunel Escobar was out of the Nationals’ lineup Thursday night, the fourth straight game he has missed with back spasms, but the veteran infielder appears likely to return for this weekend’s final series in New York.

“He’s going to need one more [day off],” manager Matt Williams said prior to Thursday’s game. “He’s going to go through a full round today — batting practice, groundballs — but he feels a little better today, so we’ll evaluate after. I think he’ll be available to pinch-hit tonight, go tomorrow.”

Williams has wanted to give Escobar an opportunity to play as much as possible this final week and finish a strong offensive year on a high note. The 32-year-old entered Thursday fourth in the NL with a .318 batting average, trailing only teammate Bryce Harper, Miami’s Dee Gordon and San Francisco’s Buster Posey.

It has been a career year at the plate for Escobar, owner of a .276 batting average in eight previous big-league seasons with the Braves, Blue Jays and Rays. But it also has been an odd year in the field for him.

A shortstop for the vast majority of his career, Escobar was acquired for reliever Tyler Clippard last winter for the expressed purpose of filling Washington’s vacant spot at second base. But after missing several weeks in spring training with an oblique strain, and then after Anthony Rendon went down with what proved to be a serious knee injury, Escobar wound up at third base on Opening Day and remaining there all season.

Which leads to uncertainty heading into this offseason. Williams and other club officials have said it’s best for Rendon to return to his natural third base position in 2016, but where does Escobar wind up?

With Ian Desmond all but assured of departing as a free agent, Escobar could return to his natural shortstop position. The Nationals, though, also have a potentially elite defensive shortstop in Danny Espinosa and a top prospect in Trea Turner knocking on the door. Escobar could finally make the originally planned move to second base, but he still has spent precious little time working there.

No matter the case, Escobar would greatly benefit from a full spring spent at one position.

“Yes, it’s important,” Williams said. “His natural position is shortstop. But if it has to be a different one, he would benefit from having the whole spring to play those 20-ish games he can play over there and do all the work he needs to do.”

There’s also a scenario in which the Nationals could trade Escobar, selling high on him before he hits his free agent year and opening the door for both Espinosa and Turner (or potentially another prospect, Wilmer Difo) to play every day.

At this point, the Nationals have made no decisions.

“It depends,” Williams said. “You have years like this one, and you just don’t know. The intent was not to have him play third base this year. You never know what’s presented. I know he’s had a great year offensively. He’s been a good teammate. He’s played just about every day. A few nicks and bumps along the way. But he’s been reliable and in the lineup a lot. And there’s something to be said for that. So regardless of where he plays, that consistency has been there.”

  1. Danny - Oct 1, 2015 at 6:52 PM

    Sell high if possible, let Turner, Difo, Espy handle the rest

    • unkyd59 - Oct 1, 2015 at 7:41 PM

      I’ll be surprised if they don’t sell high on Escobar… I’d hope for a good prospect…not elite… Or a good reliever…. Paps and Storen prolly have to go, too, but we’ll be selling low on both of them, and they’ll prolly do really well, wherever they wind up. Desi and JZim will get their QO’s, so that should bring a couple of strong prospects… Span and Fister will be let go… Anybody think Span would accept a QO? It wouldn’t be a horrible thing, but I’d like to see MAT blossom, next year. I’m hoping he can cut down on the K’s, with that compact swing… Robinson and MdD, for sure for the bench… I like Treinan and Rivero for the ‘pen, but not sure they’re back end fellows, yet, so Paps, Storen, and Escobar could bring some help there, but we’ll have to pay for a shutdown closer, either with a prospect we love, or through FA… Actually, I’d be good with 2-3 fairly expensive FA relievers (expensive as in they don’t cost THAT much, and you don’t sign them for much more than a couple years…)

      We got a lot to do!!!

      • unkyd59 - Oct 1, 2015 at 7:42 PM

        Oh, and no Uggla…

      • NatsNut - Oct 2, 2015 at 8:55 AM

        Regarding span and QO, heard on postgame radio show that he probably wouldnt accept. Players generally prefer the stability. Example they gave would be, rather than taking a $15 or $16m one year deal (say, to get value back up), he wld probly prefer a 2-year, $20m contract. And since he is now a boras client (recently switched) he can probably get it.

    • janebeard - Oct 1, 2015 at 8:44 PM

      I agree. We have DANNY and Trea. And I know I;m in the minority but I wish we had Desi, too, I saw get Clip back.

  2. natfan33 - Oct 1, 2015 at 6:58 PM

    Yea, trade the only other guy hitting over .270. Keep Uggla around another season.

    • Danny - Oct 1, 2015 at 7:04 PM

      He’s not going to hit over 300 again in his career likely, his contact rate is his only plus skill. When his BA drops back to career rates he won’t be of much value.

  3. JayB - Oct 1, 2015 at 7:35 PM

    1st Base

    • unkyd59 - Oct 1, 2015 at 7:44 PM

      Zim, JayB…. Not going anywhere…

      • veejh - Oct 2, 2015 at 9:13 AM


  4. JayB - Oct 1, 2015 at 8:10 PM

    DL and less that 75 games from here out…..I would trade Esco now but if not he could only play 1st on a regular basis

  5. kiawah51 - Oct 1, 2015 at 8:13 PM

    This offense line up will be terrible next year if MAT plays center and Espinosa starts in the infield. Haven’t people learned from this year that we have too many K’s in the line up. And you want to get rid of the second best bat on the team. Unbelievable

    • veejh - Oct 2, 2015 at 9:14 AM

      Time to let the kiddies play. Sell high on Esco, no doubt.

    • jeffreycbullock - Oct 2, 2015 at 9:17 AM

      I can almost guarantee you that Esco won’t be anywhere near .300 next year – he just had his career year, that’s all.

  6. edshelton2013 - Oct 1, 2015 at 8:21 PM

    I agree on Escobar–sell high. His career BA is .276 and he’s hitting .313 this year.
    Paps and Storen–we’re selling low with both of these guys
    Span–I think he’d accept a QO to prove his FA value but I’m concerned about his long-term health

  7. ehay2k - Oct 1, 2015 at 8:58 PM

    Escobar can play SS and with Rendon at 3b, and Espi at 2b, I don’t believe Esco’s slightly limited range will be much of an issue. That leaves Turner and Difo as backups, which I am not fully comfortable with. I have heard mutliple people talk about Escobar’s trade value, but are our young guys ready to step in? It just seems like those guys may need more seasoning. Might need a better option there if Esco does get dealt. (I would like to see him stay, because he is a decent hitter and plays the game with such joy, so he is fun to watch.)

    Since no players has ever accepted a qualifying offer, I doubt Span will take the one year offer he likely gets. Much more sure about that with Desi, Fister, and Zimmnn. So, that is a lot of draft talent potentially added to the pool, which helps down the road but not next year. That means that the Nats need to plug some holes.

    Matt den Dekker is a decent 4th OF, certainly better than McClouth ever turned out to be (speaking of McClouth did he die or something? I have this video in my head of the Nats medical staff pointing to a moribund McClouth lying on a table in the training room and, a la the Monty Python Norwegian Blue Parrot sketch, say that he is “just resting.”)

    I’d love to see something improve at catcher, but I’m not sure what is available. Maybe Ramos can work on catching balls from the OF and making tags at the plate. He also has to improve his hitting. His GIDP is too regular an occurrence. Improvement is needed.

    Pitching? Bullpen obviously. I don’t see a Papelbon or Storen here next year, so we almost certainly need a closer. (I’d be OK if Storen came back, but he may never want to play for this management again.) Middle relief is such a crapshoot – Stammen will be back, but will be be his old self? And we need more than loogys for our LHP. But that seems to be aa known issue so Rizzo & Co. will be working on that.

    As for the starters, can Max, Stras, Gio, Roark, and ??? get it done? That’s not a bad rotation. Maybe Ross, Giolito, Cole, or someone else can step in. We won the NL East with Detwiler as our 5th pitcher, and it is said that you only need 3 in the postseason, so maybe our number 5 isn’t critical. But not having a plus arm there pits more pressure on the rest of the staff.

    Lastly, LF and 1b – we need someone to backup the old timers we have there, because Werth and Zimm cannot seem to stay healthy. That is in addition to den Dekker and Robinson. Does Tyler Moore make the team and get more time? Not a terrible option, and he’s better in LF than Robinson (who would seem to be a lock to make the team for next year), and not much worse than Werth, who in my view has rapidly declined defensively in terms of both arm and range. But a better option would be something worth exploring, in my book.

    Manager? Sheesh, I can’t even think about it, but something needs to happen.

    My 2 cents.

    • natsguy - Oct 1, 2015 at 10:06 PM

      Ramos needs to work on more than just catching the ball for plays at the plate. His pitch calling is pretty awful.

      • ehay2k - Oct 2, 2015 at 8:57 AM

        Well, he has called 2 no hitters, so he can’t be all bad!

    • ArVAFan - Oct 1, 2015 at 10:24 PM

      My two cents:

      I think Ross will be fine in as the #5 in the rotation, although he may fade at the end of the season.

      If they make Span a QO, he may take it: he likes playing here, and he may want to have a one-year contract to prove he can stay healthy and on the field. If they don’t make a QO, that tells you that they know something they don’t like about his physicals.

      We could do worse than Zim/Robinson at 1st. Spend the money on improving elsewhere around the diamond–or the bullpen. Especially the bullpen. Hint, Rizzo: next time spend more than 24 hours doing the due diligence on a player. He did a great job on Esco–I think he just rushed on Pap and hoped for the best. But I doubt he’d make that mistake twice.

      • JamesFan - Oct 2, 2015 at 2:50 PM

        If I were Span, I’d be first to take the qualifying offer. It’s something like $14 million for one year. He needs a year to show he’s healthy for a longer deal. He might get a two year deal somewhere over the winter, but I bet it would be less than $14 for two years. The Nats can use Taylor to fill in for the inevitable injuries. Taylor needs a little more seasoning before giving him the centerfield job permanently. Great potential though.

  8. sunshinebobby - Oct 1, 2015 at 9:18 PM

    Manager prediction, outside the box: Cal Ripken
    Manager prediction, inside the box: Ron Washington.

    Esco prediction: he stays, but he ought to go.

    • natsguy - Oct 1, 2015 at 10:07 PM

      Interesting about Ron Washington.

    • natfan33 - Oct 1, 2015 at 10:33 PM

      We have Cal Ripken now, but his name is Matt Williams.

    • iconicwoodencap - Oct 2, 2015 at 7:56 AM

      hmmm I’m not sure Washington’s admitted cocaine use and sexual assault charges will help him in the “due diligence” process. The last thing we need is to be justifying another sketchy character to the media and fan base.

      While Cal Ripkin makes an Eagle Scout look like look like the guy selling watches out of a trench coat, I get more than nervous about another “close your eyes and hope for the best” experiment with an untested manager. If he wants to manage (which I doubt) let him learn the craft somewhere else. Suffering through on-the-job training might work for McDonald’s, but not, i think, for a multi-milion dollar baseball franchise in desperate need of demonstrating stellar judgment in the face of some pretty devastating misguided choices.

      I have no idea of the potential managerial pool out there. It’s easy to shoot down proposed ideas, but of limited use without a positive suggestion. Where’s our Joe Maddon?! 🙂

    • dgourds - Oct 2, 2015 at 9:26 AM

      Best possible manager for the Nats–FP Santangelo. Few know the Nats better. He’s a baseball genius. He communicates well. He’s positive, fiesty. He’s be a tremendous manager. I really believe that.

      • iconicwoodencap - Oct 2, 2015 at 9:51 AM

        I like it!!! He’d sure be able to handle the media… :+)

    • ptindc - Oct 2, 2015 at 10:43 AM

      I’d been thinking that Bud Black would be the guy, but the Ron Washington idea is excellent.

      • JamesFan - Oct 2, 2015 at 2:45 PM

        Ron has trouble with nose candy.

  9. Guapo - Oct 2, 2015 at 9:03 AM

    Escobar should be the starting SS next year. Should have had that job this year, but that’s water under the bridge now.

    His career stats at SS are as good or better than Desmond’s and he was vastly superior offensively this year. At $7M for a serviceable SS with potential to hit .300…that’s solid value.

    I’m not comfortable turning SS over to a rookie for a team that is positioned to win.

    • tcostant - Oct 2, 2015 at 9:37 AM

      I agree. Let Turner stay at Triple A until the end of May and push that free agent clock out a year, small price to play for an extra year of team control.

  10. JamesFan - Oct 2, 2015 at 11:34 AM

    I’m fine with Escobar at short in 2016. The Nats need the offense and he won’t be worse defensively than Desi. Turner at second or hold him in the minors for awhile. He looks great, and the Nats could use the speed, but he might not be fully ready for SS just yet.

    However, my guess is that they will package him in a trade to get a closer and/or upgrade the bullpen.

    I like Robinson and den Dekker on the bench. Espi too but he is a value that some will want at short.





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