(Of course, the chances that the Nationals would have parted with Espinosa were slim given he has major advocates in General Manager Mike Rizzo and Manager Davey Johnson.)
Johnson, as expected on Tuesday, threw his support behind the 25-year-old Espinosa again, a player he believes has yet to fully reach his high ceiling. Last season, though he hit 17 home runs and played stellar defense at second base and filling in at shortstop, Espinosa endured long slumps at the plate and led the National League in strikeouts.
“I talked to Danny,” Johnson said. “I understand Danny very well because he reminds me of myself. He’s stubborn.
“But he told me in Houston the last month of the season, his goal every month is to improve a little bit. I thought he made giant steps this year. He’s got a guy that wants his job and thinks he’s better than him is [Steve] Lombardozzi. And I like Lombardozzi also. Both had good years, but I think Danny’s going to come in this coming year with a mindset kind of like Ian Desmond came into this last year, and it’s going to be his job to lose.”
Johnson’s last sentiment rings the loudest: Espinosa, for his ups and downs, is still the Nationals second baseman, an impact player despite his weaknesses. He is young and Johnson, who takes it upon himself to guide young hitters, believes he can make an impact with Espinosa, much like he was able to help Desmond’s breakout 2012 season.