Somehow, Danny Espinosa played more than month with a fractured right wrist without it being properly diagnosed. After discovering the injury on May 24, the Nationals still kept around, as his average plummeted to .158. The Nationals finally ended this little experiment today by placing Espinosa on the disabled and calling up top prospect Anthony Rendon.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo to the Washington Post:
"It wasn't for the jolt scenario. More like getting guys here that give us the best chance to win baseball games. ... It's about putting the best 25 out there at this particular time to help win games. Decisions would be different if we had a full healthy team the whole season and we were hitting on all cylinders. But we're not healthy and trying to piece together a lineup to help us scratch together enough runs to win some games. We felt like to get healthy players to give us a chance to be as good offensively as we can."
OK, but why did it take 10 days to put an injured Espinosa on the DL? With backup infielder Steve Lombardozzi struggling at the plate as well, the Nationals turn to Rendon, a third baseman in college who has played eight games at second base this year in the minors. The risky move is understandable -- the Nationals are averaging a pathetic 3.45 runs per game (second-worst in the NL) so the hope is Rendon can provide some offense even if he's a defensive liability. Maybe they've paid attention to what the Cardinals have done with Matt Carpenter, a minor league third baseman who has successfully transitioned to second base this season, although these third-to-second moves rarely work.
Our Nationals blogger Harper Gordek questioned the timing of the moves:
They will start winning more regardless of the make-up of the roster. It's just going to happen. By waiting until yesterday to make these moves you guarantee that the moves will be associated with more winning, even if it would have happened on some level anyway. It's a brilliant strategical move to make yourself look better. It's a terrible move though to stand pat on moves that were obvious weeks ago.
Rendon alone won't revive this offense, the reason the Nationals are 29-29 and arguably the season's most disappointing team so far. They're getting little production from catcher Kurt Suzuki and much-praised acquisition Denard Span has a .316 OBP and no home runs. Espinosa was wretched (47 K's, 4 BB) and the entire bench has been awful.
There are a lot of people rooting against the Nationals, feeling the decision to sit Stephen Strasburg last year was a sign of arrogance. How can you just assume you'll be back in a position to reach the World Series again? I disagreed with the decision to sit Strasburg, but I was there with everyone else: I thought the Nationals were going to be the best team in baseball.
Winning isn't so easy, however. Davey Johnson, who managed the 1986 Mets to a World Series title with a young, talented team, knows this better than anybody; those Mets only made it back to the playoffs one more time. It's not too late for the Nationals to rescue their season, but they can't rely on a rookie moving to a new position to be the guy who turns on the ignition switch.