It’s Day 3 of the Winter Meetings in San Diego and the Nationals haven’t made any moves yet. But, really, they are under no pressure to do anything here. They have had plenty of internal discussions and meetings, and have talked with teams across the league. And now that Jon Lester has signed with the Cubs, they and others will have a clearer idea of the market.
A collection of notes, tidbits and observations of the past few days:
>>> The Nationals have cast a wide net in search of an infielder and view the trade market as more fruitful than the free agent class, which includes Jed Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera and Stephen Drew. The Nationals checked in with Cabrera’s agent earlier this winter but their level of interest is unclear. Lowrie seems like a fit but it doesn’t appear there’s much going on there.
The Nationals have inquired about Ben Zobrist but it appears like a long shot to pry him away from the Tampa Bay Rays. Zobrist is a switch-hitting veteran who can play all over the field but mostly at second base. The Rays exercised his $7.5 million option for 2015.
>>> Something to keep in mind about the Nationals’ search for a second baseman: General Manager Mike Rizzo has said throughout the winter that Anthony Rendon could slide to second base should they acquire a third baseman. It may have felt like lip service before because, well, why would anyone want to move Rendon away from his natural position, a place he excelled last season?
But according to people around the Nationals, they are indeed looking at third basemen and, if a good one is out there to be had, Rendon would move to second.
“The roster flexibility we have works in our favor,” Rizzo said. “The fact that Rendon can play several positions really makes us a fluid roster that gives us more possibilities. There are all sorts of possibilities we can go with any which way.”
Nationals Manager Matt Williams, a former star third baseman, liked what he saw from Rendon at second and third base last season, and he would have no issue playing Rendon more at second base if needed.
“I think he could play both very well,” Williams said. “Initially his intro into the leagues was at second base, because of need. And I think he made great improvements in that regard. Last year was kind of need to move him back to third. And so that being said, I think he’s adjusted very well. So he could play either. And I don’t know which is natural for him. Coming up he played mostly third. But I think he adapted to second really well. I think that could be, with a little bit of time, natural for him, as well. I think either position he plays he’ll be fine defensively. And offensively, I think he’s just scratched the surface of what he can be.”
Although it may be harder to acquire a controllable third baseman than a second baseman, the Nationals aren’t ruling out looking for one.
>>> Williams said it’s premature to declare whether Danny Espinosa will give up switch-hitting. The Nationals hope to have Espinosa face right-handed pitching as a right-hander, which he has done only in the batting cage and in limited opportunities. Williams said he hopes to have Espinosa practice that in spring training and receive extra at-bats in minor league spring training, too.
>>> The Nationals have received “a lot of action” and interest in their relievers, including Tyler Clippard, according to Rizzo. The Houston Astros, who are looking for relief help, talked to the Nationals about Clippard, but the discussions didn’t get far. The Astros signed Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek on Wednesday morning so they may no longer be in need of relievers.
The sense from teams that asked the Nationals about Clippard is that Washington wants better than a low-tier prospect and trading him wouldn’t be simply to dump his salary, which is projected to be around $9 million.
>>> After past failed attempts, the Nationals planned to make another attempt to re-sign Jordan Zimmermann this week. Rizzo said Tuesday he had yet to meet with Zimmermann’s representatives but hoped to do so. Rizzo said he would have “open dialogue” with them and “see where it takes us.” Zimmermann is a free agent after the 2015 season.
During his session with reporters on Tuesday, Rizzo was also asked about Ian Desmond’s representatives. Rizzo said the two sides “met” but he declined to characterize the extent of the meeting. Desmond is also a free agent after the 2015 season. He turned down a seven-year, $107 million extension offer last offseason and there’s been little progress since.
Asked about their meeting, Desmond’s agent, Doug Rogalski, said: “I didn’t realize exchanging pleasantries constituted a meeting.”
>>> During his session with reporters on Tuesday, Williams was asked what he thought of the job he did last season. His answer, in full:
“I think it was okay. There were times that were challenging, certainly. And I think it’s going to be that way, given who we have on our team. Bryce’s [Harper] light’s a little bit brighter than anybody else’s. And so is Stephen’s [Strasburg]. It comes with the territory. I learned how to deal with that to help them deal with that a little bit. And maybe just shoulder a little bit of that load myself and take it off of them. So that’s important.
“I learned that there’s times where I’ve just got to step aside and let them go and let them play. I’m a little bit of a control freak, as everybody saw with the schedule for last spring training. But I learned that you can’t do that all the time. When you play you have the ability to change it, to actually control it. When you’re not playing, you don’t. So there’s that fine line that you have to walk sometimes and just there’s times where you just get out of the way. There’s a lot of things I learned. And hopefully I can take those and be better at my job going forward.”
>>> While the trade talk about the Nationals has centered mostly on Zimmermann, and some on Fister and Clippard, little has been about Desmond or Ross Detwiler, two other players who could also be trade candidates. Detwiler seems like a prime candidate to be traded, but that may not happen until there’s more clarity about the long-term future of Zimmermann and Fister.
The Angels were interested in Detwiler last season. The Rangers also have mild interest in the left-hander.
— Adam Kilgore and Barry Svrluga contributed.