Biggest Winners and Losers from Washington Nationals' OffseasonJanuary 13, 2015
Biggest Winners and Losers from Washington Nationals' Offseason
If the Washington Nationals made headlines with blockbuster trades involving their star players this offseason, it would be far less stressful for fans than the team's conspicuous inactivity.
The Nats have made small trades here and entered talks there, but Washington has yet to check off anything on the top of its to-do list. And, as of now, that strategy has benefited some players and left others in precarious spots.
It would be hard to believe the Nationals are completely done wheeling and dealing this offseason, so a single trade could turn this list upside down.
For example, shortstop Ian Desmond's future is about as unclear as it can be. Washington has made it abundantly clear it's willing to trade him and his expiring contract this offseason. If the team finally deals him or the sides agree on a new deal, he should be a much happier camper.
On the other hand, players like Ross Detwiler and Dan Uggla have a chance to relaunch their careers with new clubs following moves the Nationals have actually pulled the trigger on this winter.
Washington is like any other team in the fact that it can't make everyone happy.
General manager Mike Rizzo has limited resources to work with, and he gets the fat paycheck he does because he can decide what compromises are best for the team as a whole in the long run.
Winner: Danny Espinosa
Back in 2013, Danny Espinosa's career was on life support.
He followed an impressive 2012 with a season that only saw him play 44 major league games and turn in a .158 batting average.
He battled a torn rotator cuff that year, but his almighty struggles at the plate still earned him a demotion to the minors.
Danny Espinosa has been optioned, not placed on the DL, per a source. #Nats— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) June 4, 2013
All this is to say 2015 could mark the completion of Espinosa's comeback, as the 27-year-old is primed to be Washington's everyday second baseman in the upcoming season.
The general consensus said the Nationals needed to bring in a new player at the position this winter, but that's looking less and less likely with the trade and free-agent pools all but dried up.
Asdrubal Cabrera, a National for half of last season, was an option before he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays. Stephen Drew also floated around for a while, but he recently opted to rejoin the New York Yankees.
Rumors of Washington's interest in a trade for Ben Zobrist survived for about a week, but the Rays have since dealt him to the Oakland Athletics.
Espinosa remains as the only option to speak of for the Nationals.
"They can go out and get players. If that's what they think will make them better, that's fine," Espinosa told The Washington Post's James Wagner. "That's not my decision...I'm going to go out there and bust my [butt] and play the best that I can play, and if it's not good enough then it's not good enough. If it is, I want to be there."
Loser: Ian Desmond
While it's not ideal, the Nationals could stand to lose a member of their starting rotation. If Jordan Zimmermann goes, Doug Fister will probably remain and vice versa.
Where Washington absolutely can't afford another missing piece is the infield.
This makes it all the more puzzling that Ian Desmond's name keeps coming up in trade talks.
During the winter meetings, the Nationals kicked around the idea of trading Desmond to the Seattle Mariners. Now, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports Desmond was almost shipped off to the New York Mets in a three-team deal that would've brought Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to Washington via Tampa Bay.
Desmond is a homegrown product for the Nats, which is also the case for Zimmermann. But Washington has had constructive extension talks with the pitcher, and the same can't be said for Desmond.
"I was 18 when I signed, I had like four armpit hairs. Now I've got three kids," Desmond told reporters in December. "This is an organization I've been with a long time. Obviously I want to be here and play here, but this is a business."
Winner: Ross Detwiler
Ross Detwiler spent the first seven years of his big league career with Washington, but last season was the first since his rookie year that he didn't start a single game.
The 28-year-old now benefits from a change of scenery after a trade that sent him to the Texas Rangers.
The former No. 6 overall pick had his best season in 2012 when he won 10 games and pitched 164.1 innings. Now Texas is telling him he'll get a chance to regain that form in 2015.
In a December interview with Dallas radio station KRLD-105.3 FM, Detwiler said various Rangers coaches have told him "we expect you to be a starter."
The lefty never could carve out a niche for himself in Washington, perhaps because of his relatively quick trip through the minors. Detwiler made his MLB debut in Sept. 2007 after being drafted in June.
Detwiler is a starter by trade who was relegated to the bullpen by a starting rotation ESPN's Buster Olney recently dubbed the best in baseball.
He finds himself in a much more favorable situation in Texas following the trade.
Loser: Trea Turner
The trade that will ultimately bring Trea Turner from San Diego to Washington was a good deal for the Nationals and the player himself.
Turner is the likely successor to 29-year-old Ian Desmond at shortstop, and he finds himself in an organization known for operating with its prospects' best interests in mind.
What puts Trea Turner in the loser category this offseason is, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Major League Baseball Rule 3(B)(6).
The 21-year-old was taken 13th overall by the Padres back in June 2014. It won't be until June 2015 that he can join the Nationals as the trade's "player to be named later" while he remains in San Diego's organization for the required full year.
No new developments have come out with regards to Turner's situation since December, but his agent, Jeff Berry, has yet to back down from his threat to file a grievance with MLB.
Berry is decidedly not happy on Turner's behalf, and he had this to say to Rosenthal:
Given the circumstances and the undoubtedly negative impact on Trea Turner, for the teams involved and Major League Baseball to endorse and approve this trade is not only unethical, but also goes against the very spirit of the Minor League Uniform Player Contract that players sign when they first enter professional baseball.
Winner: Dan Uggla
Dan Uggla has had a rough go since hitting 36 home runs in 2011, his first year with the Braves after five with the Marlins.
A string of seasons with sub-.225 batting averages from 2012-2014 culminated in his eventual release by Atlanta last season and 11 hitless at-bats with San Francisco later in the year.
But the Nationals are hoping pre-2012 Uggla still exists after signing the 34-year-old to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training.
The outlook for the second baseman entering 2015 is infinitely more optimistic than it's been in recent years. The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo reports Uggla's vision was hampered by multiple concussions that caused a disorder called oculomotor dysfunction.
Uggla sought treatment for the condition and, in November, a doctor deemed his vision back to normal.
If Washington truly does have the Uggla of old on its roster, we could see a competition at second base between him and Espinosa. That's more than Uggla could've hoped for when he was struggling for answers mere months ago.