Danny Espinosa has a chance to make the Washington Nationals roster as a bench player with his performance in spring training. But in the majors, Espinosa has only ever been a starter. General Manager Mike Rizzo still thinks highly of Espinosa’s potential, even talking him up this week, and expects him to compete with Anthony Rendon for the second base job in camp.
For now, however, Rendon is the starter and it’s his position to lose. Should Rendon remain the starting second baseman and Espinosa shows enough in spring training to merit a job as a backup infielder, Espinosa would have to adjust to a role that is foreign to him. He was the Nationals’ starting second baseman for just less than 2 1/2 years, including on a division title-winning team.
His agent, Scott Boras, was at the winter meetings and, when asked about Espinosa’s ability to adjust to a bench job, spoke highly of the infielder’s ability to start.
“I think Danny Espinosa has proved he can hit in the major leagues,” Boras said. “He’s hit 20 home runs. He’s one of the better defensive players up the middle in baseball. The Nats have an asset that is very valued and I’m sure there’s a lot of teams talking to them about him. … I don’t think anybody wants to be a backup. When you’re that young and that good of a player, I think it’s something that in the major leagues you do what you’re told to do and you compete.”
Espinosa has been the subject of trade rumors, especially during the winter meetings. The Nationals don’t seem inclined to move the switch-hitting Espinosa because they would be selling low, they still believe in the player’s potential and, without him, Nate McLouth would be the lone left-handed batter on the bench and he provides the best defensive insurance at up the middle of the infield.
Espinosa’s shoulder also remains a topic of conversation: How much did his torn rotator cuff affect him, and will it continue to do so?
The Nationals have said that Espinosa is healthy after also dealing with a fractured right wrist last season. Espinosa has said that, because of the rehab work on his shoulder last season, perhaps he didn’t build enough overall upper-body strength but that the torn rotator cuff hadn’t limited at the plate last season. Boras said that Espinosa was recently checked out by a doctor and the infielder will continue his normal workouts.
“He’s healthy,” Boras said. “He’s fine.”