Washington Nationals Opinions: Why the Nats Should Trade for Ben Zobrist

brandonconner
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At last year’s trade deadline, the Washington Nationals were in need of an upgrade in the infield, particularly at second base. Danny Espinosa was facing his typical struggles at the plate, and for all the good he was doing on defense, he was doing just as much harm on offense.

Fast-forward to this year’s deadline, and the Nationals have the same need, but for a different reason.

This year, Espinosa is not the problem. He’s having a season that’s easily his career best year, hitting for a line of .253/.324/.416 with ten home runs and 29 runs batted in. Along with Clint Robinson, who’s filled in well in his own right, Espinosa has provided stability in the infield while Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman have spent time on the disabled list.

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So why do the Nationals need another utility infielder when they have Espinosa? The answer, of course, is depth.

Anthony Rendon has just returned to the lineup after missing a significant portion of the season, and Zimmerman should not be far behind. With their additions, the Nationals will have their infield at full-strength for the first time in what feels like months.

The problem is figuring out how long it will last. Rendon’s stint on the DL was his second already this season while Zimmerman’s body continues to grow steadily frailer as he ages. Add to that the fact that Yunel Escobar seems to exit the lineup with something tweaked every other week, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

The Nationals currently have enough depth in Espinosa and Robinson to withstand a minor injury or two. Anything more than that becomes problematic. How long do you want to play Russian roulette with Dan Uggla just waiting to implode your offense?

That’s why the Nationals need Ben Zobrist. Oakland has clearly declared itself a seller at the deadline, already auctioning off Kazmir to the Astros and sending Tyler Clippard to the Mets. Zobrist’s name has come up with multiple teams, including the Nationals, who could use Zobrist to help shore up an infield that could use a little insurance.

Playing in his tenth major league season, Zobrist is still putting up good numbers, compiling a line of .268/.354/.447 with six homers and 33 RBIs for a struggling A’s team. While he’s not a huge home run threat, he offers an instant shot of depth to a team ravaged by injury.

Zobrist’s bat would also add another weapon to an offense that’s seen its fair share of slumps this season, and his ability to play infield and outfield would offer manager Matt Williams the opportunity to get more players rest, which could come in handy down the stretch. It also keeps him from having to rely on den Dekker should things go awry with Jayson Werth and Denard Span.

A trade for Zobrist comes with one caveat, though. This is a move that improves the team, but it isn’t an absolute necessity. The price must be right. Adding depth and insurance for injury makes the Nationals a more potent contender, but there’s a limit to how much should be given up for a rental that won’t see a massive amount of playing time if players like Rendon, Espinosa, and Desmond stay healthy.

That being said, Mike Rizzo is one of the best GM’s in baseball. It’s hard to see him mortgaging the future for a move like this. But, if Rizzo can make it happen and the Nationals can get Zobrist for a fair price, one that doesn’t involve a top tier prospect, it only makes the Nats playoff chances that much better.

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