Sometimes injuries force teams to get creative.
The Washington Nationals have been dealt several injuries during this young season, and manager Matt Williams might already be trying to get creative to fill a few holes. Ryan Zimmerman, who has been out for the past five weeks after breaking his right thumb, was seen shagging fly balls and taking grounders from both left and right field on Friday afternoon, reports Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.
Zimmerman was using Jayson Werth‘s glove to shag fly balls, as his infielder’s glove obviously wouldn’t do.
Kilgore likes the logic behind the possible move:
It appeared to be the start of an experiment, one with logic behind it: Zimmerman’s throws would require less precision than at third base; it would give the Nationals a power-hitting left fielder until Bryce Harper returns in July; Zimmerman is a good enough athlete to make such a temporary transition; and it would allow [Danny] Espinosa and Anthony Rendon to stay at second and third base, giving the Nationals their best defensive alignment.
It really does make a whole lot of sense. Zimmerman is a liability at third given his inaccuracies throwing the ball, but he does have a good enough arm to survive just fine in a corner outfield spot. Sure, speed isn’t his game, but he’s athletic enough to make the transition appear seamless—as long as he’s capable of running good routes to balls in the air.
Offensively, it would allow a lineup that struggles from time to time to keep its best combination of bats in the lineup. Harper’s return would force Williams’ hand and force him to get creative again, but who knows? Another injury could very well pop up by then.
Despite the logic behind it, Zimmerman shot it down (via Kilgore):
We haven’t talked about that [moving to the outfield]. It’s a way to break up the monotony of lifting and running bases and doing the same exact thing every single day. It’s just for fun, go out there and run just so I don’t have to run the bases every single day. There’s really only so many things you can do.
Even if it’s just for fun, it’s not a bad option for Williams to keep in his back pocket when Zimmerman returns. The value of a super utility player in today’s game is difficult to put a number on. Just look at Ben Zobrist of the Tampa Bay Rays. He is invaluable to that team because of his ability to play (and hit) anywhere.
I like the move and think it should happen. Maybe not full-time, but as a part-time gig, Zimmerman would be wise to consider it.