Nationals, looking for IF depth, sign Brendan Ryan

WASHINGTON -- In their continuing search for infield depth, the Washington Nationals have signed Brendan Ryan to a minor league contract that includes an invite to spring training.

Since the end of last season, the middle of the Nationals’ infield has changed dramatically. Ian Desmond, who’d been the team’s starting shortstop since 2010, became a free agent. Anthony Rendon, who was the regular second baseman last season, is slated to move back to his natural third base position in 2016, replacing recently traded Yunel Escobar.

Washington signed former Met and 2015 postseason hero Daniel Murphy to play second base. Versatile infielder Danny Espinosa, a natural shortstop who’s played primarily second base during his six-year career, is projected to replace Desmond. The Nats also signed free agent Stephen Drew, who can play both positions, to provide depth. Ryan will compete with Drew, as well as prospects Trea Turner and Wilmer Difo, when Dusty Baker’s club kicks off spring training later this month in Viera, Florida.

The 33-year old Ryan has a career slash line of .234/.295/.315. Last season, he batted .229 in 47 games with the New York Yankees. Mainly a shortstop, he’s also logged significant time at both second and third base and is considered a solid defender. According to FanGraphs, from 2009 through 2012, Ryan’s 89 defensive runs saved were the most among major league shortstops, and more than twice as many as anyone else at the position.